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Essays from Development in Practice

Edited by
David Westendorff and Deborah Eade

A Development in Practice Reader

Series Editor
Deborah Eade
First published by Oxfam GB in association with UNRISD in 2002
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Contributors vii
Sponsoring organisations ix
Preface xi
Deborah Eade
Sustainable cities of the South: an introduction 1
David Westendorff

Urban sustainability under threat: the restructuring of the fishing

industry in Mar del Plata, Argentina 12
Adriana Allen
Institutional innovations for urban infrastructural development:
the Indian scenario 43
Amitabh Kundu
Institutionalising the concept of environmental planning and
management: successes and challenges in Dar es Salaam 65
Wilbard J. Kombe
Democracy and social participation in Latin American cities 89
Diego Carrin M.
Sustainable development and democracy in the megacities 102
Jaime Joseph
Unsustainable development: the Philippine experience 122
Karina Constantino-David
Sustainable urban development in India: an inclusive perspective 136
Darshini Mahadevia
Urban crisis in India: new initiatives for sustainable cities 160
P.G. Dhar Chakrabarti
International co-operation in pursuit of sustainable cities 177
Adrian Atkinson
Mainstreaming the urban poor in Andhra Pradesh 204
Banashree Banerjee
Learning from informal markets: innovative approaches to land
and housing provision 226
Erhard Berner
Lowering the ladder: regulatory frameworks for sustainable
development 248
Geoffrey Payne
Cities for the urban poor in Zimbabwe: urban space as a resource
for sustainable development 263
Alison Brown
Innovations for sustainable development in cities of the South:
the Habitat-Cuba approach 282
Carlos Garca Pleyn
Private-public partnership, the compact city, and social housing:
best practice for whom? 287
Fernando Murillo
Residents associations and information communication technologies:
a suggested approach to international action-research 297
Cesare Ottolini
Monitoring megacities: the MURBANDY/MOLAND approach 305
Carlo Lavalle, Luca Demicheli, Maddalena Turchini,
Pilar Casals-Carrasco, and Monika Niederhuber
Technical versus popular language: some reflections on the
vocabulary of urban management in Mexico and Brazil 316
Hlne Rivire dArc
Resources 324
Books 326
Journals 337
Organisations 339
Addresses of publishers 342
Index 345

vi Development and Cities


Adriana Allen is Director of the Environmental Planning and Management

Programme at the Development Planning Unit at University College
London, and a visiting professor at several universities in Latin America.
Adrian Atkinson is associated with the Development Planning Unit (DPU)
at University College London, where he developed courses in urban
environment over many years. Currently, he acts as a consultant to various
aid agencies, with a focus on South-East Asia.
Banashree Banerjee is an urban planner and associate staff member of the
Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS), Rotterdam.
She was part of the core team of consultants involved in designing and
overseeing the implementation of the programme described in her paper.
Erhard Berner is a lecturer in Local and Regional Development at the
Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, and has taught at universities in
the Philippines, Nepal, and Namibia.
Alison Brown is a consultant urban planner and part-time lecturer at the
Department of City and Regional Planning of Cardiff University.
Diego Carrin is Dean of the Faculty of Architecture and Design at the
Catholic University of Ecuador and a researcher at the Centro de
Investigaciones CIUDAD in Quito, Ecuador. He is also chief adviser to
the mayor of Quito.
P. G. Dhar Chakrabarti is a senior Indian Civil Servant. He held the post of
Director in the Ministry of Urban Development in the Government of India
when this article was written. This article is written in his individual capacity
and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of his organisation.
Karina Constantino-David is Professor of Community Development at the
University of the Philippines, former Secretary of Housing and Urban
Development from 1998 to 1999, and a Philippine NGO leader.
Deborah Eade is Editor of the international journal Development in Practice
and has written widely on development and humanitarian affairs.

Carlos Garca Pleyn holds degrees from the universities of Barcelona,
Paris, and Havana. From 1970 to 1996 he was a town planner at the
Instituto de Planificacin Fsica in Havana. Since 1998 he has been
Vice-President of the NGO, Habitat-Cuba.
Jaime Joseph is a member of Centro Alternativa, an action-research NGO
that works in Metropolitan Lima, and is co-ordinator of the school for
leaders and research.
Wilbard Jackson Kombe is a senior lecturer at the University College of
Lands and Architectural Studies (UCLAS) in Dar es Salaam.
Amitabh Kundu is based at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development
at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
Carlo Lavalle works at the Space Applications Institute, Strategy and
Systems for Space Applications (SSSA) Unit in Italy.
Darshini Mahadevia teaches courses on housing and environment at the
Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology in Ahmedabad and is
currently working on urban poverty issues in India.
Fernando Murillo is an architect. Having worked the Middle East, Rwanda,
and Nicaragua, he is currently Research Project Director in the Faculty of
Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Buenos Aires.
Cesare Ottolini is the European representative of Habitat International
Coalition (HIC), a founder member of the European Charter for Housing
Rights and the Fight Against Exclusion, and president of the Unione Inquilini
(Tenants Union), one of Italys most prominent associations of tenants
and homeless people.
Geoffrey Payne is a housing and urban development consultant and a
specialist on urban land tenure and property rights in developing countries.
He is also an External Associate Adviser to the British Council on built
environment subjects.
Hlne Rivire dArc, a geographer, is Director of Research at the
Research and Documentation Centre (CNRS) in Paris, where she focuses
on Latin America.
David Westendorff was a Research Co-ordinator at UNRISD from 1991
until 2001 and is now an independent consultant co-ordinating a series
of international comparative research projects on urban governance.
He will assume a faculty position at Tsinghwa University, Beijing, China
in mid-2002.

viii Development and Cities

Sponsoring organisations

Founded in 1996, N-AERUS (Network-Association of European Researchers
on Urbanisation in the South) is a pluri-disciplinary North-South network
of researchers and experts working on urban issues in developing countries.
N-AERUS is premised on an understanding that:
cities are increasingly contributing to the development process;
any interventions must take into account the social dimension of
urban development, the cultural diversity of cities, and the diversity of
urban areas;
European research capacities and experiences in the urban sector are
N-AERUS channels its research findings to the EU, in order to render
its technical assistance programmes and urban projects in the South more
effective. N-AERUS also disseminates information, and seeks to develop,
mobilise, and consolidate institutional and individual research and training
capacities, and to provide sound intellectual backing to urban development
For further information, visit www.n-aerus.org

European Science Foundation (ESF)

The European Science Foundation (ESF) is an association of 67 research
councils and institutions devoted to basic scientific research, based in 23
countries. The scientific work sponsored by ESF includes basic research in
the natural sciences, medical and biosciences, the humanities, and the
social sciences. The ESF also seeks to be a catalyst for the development of
science by bringing together leading scientists and funding agencies to
debate, plan, and implement pan-European activities.
For further information, visit www.esf.org

The Research Institute for the Built Environment (Institut de Recherche
sur lEnvironnement Construit, IREC) is based in the Department of
Architecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne
(Ecole Polytchnique Fdrale de Lausanne, EPFL).
IREC was founded in 1971 as an interdisciplinary team of researchers
to analyse the built environment and urban phenomena in regional,
national, and global development plans. The Institute contributes to
improving the understanding of these structures and the economic, social,
political, and cultural processes that shape them. The main thematic
areas of its research include urban dynamics and metropolisation;
construction, property, and real estate; development of housing
conditions and the urban environment; spatial and social structures;
urban migration and public space; technology, science, and society.
For further information, contact <Jean-Claude.Bolay@epfl.ch>

The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)
is an autonomous agency engaging in multi-disciplinary research on
the social dimensions of contemporary problems affecting development.
Its work is guided by the conviction that development policies will be
effective only if they are based on an understanding of their social and
political context. UNRISD attempts to provide governments, development
agencies, grassroots organisations, and scholars with a better under-
standing of how development policies and processes of economic,
social, and environmental change affect different social sectors.
Working through an extensive network of national research centres,
UNRISD aims to promote original research and strengthen research
capacity in developing countries.
UNRISDs recent research on urban issues has focused on the role
of community-based organisations in confronting urban social problems,
and on the emerging forms of co-operation and interaction between
such organisations and local authorities. In both areas, community-
based researcher-activists and community groups have been intimately
involved in the research alongside more traditional knowledge workers.
The purpose of this approach has been to create a grassroots perspective
on the problems and prospects for improving urban governance, and
particularly the ability of marginalised groups to organise themselves
to influence the flow of public and private resources to their benefit.
For more information, visit www.unrisd.org

x Development and Cities

Deborah Eade

This Reader is based upon the May 2001 double issue of Development
in Practice, guest-edited by David Westendorff of the United Nations
Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD). Now based once
again in China, he was from 1991 to 2001 a research co-ordinator at
the UNRISD office in Geneva, where his work focused on the related
themes of urban governance and civil society and social movements.
Prior to this, he co-ordinated research projects on urban development
and planning issues in Brazil, China, Mexico, India, Peru, South Africa,
and the USA.
Among development agencies in general, and specifically in the
NGO sector, there is a continuing reluctance to engage fully with issues
of urbanisation. The prevailing attitude is either that cities are a
problem in and of themselves and shouldnt be encouraged, or that
their residents enjoy better facilities and so are less needy than their
rural counterparts, or that the challenges posed by rapid urbanisation
are simply too big, too expensive, and too complicated to handle.
A glance through the grants lists and literature of some of the best-
known international NGOs suggests that, in part because of their short-
term or project-bound focus, if they get involved at all, most find it
easier to deal with the specific problems of specific population groups
in the towns and cities of the South street-children and sex-workers
topping the list rather than getting involved in the messier processes
of urban management, such as housing or transport or public
amenities. Ironically, the largest human settlements in which many
NGOs take a more holistic approach to the planning and management
of basic services are refugee camps usually cramped and often squalid
settlements that earn their description as rural slums but again their
involvement is characteristically short-term rather than open-ended or

Of himself, David Westendorff comments that his formal training
in architecture in the mid-1970s, and city and regional planning in
the early 1980s allowed him to ignore these topics until real-world
experience began to show him who the real builders and planners were.
In his introductory essay, he therefore underlines the importance of
making discussions about sustainability in the urban sector accessible
to those institutions of civil society that (potentially) have a pivotal role
to play in influencing policy debates and shaping practice the
grassroots activists, community- or neighbourhood-based organisations,
social movements, and NGOs, among many others. We, in association
with UNRISD, are pleased to help in disseminating the enormous
breadth of professional and practical experience, and cultural
backgrounds, reflected here. We trust that this Reader will help to break
down some of the barriers and prejudices that so often limit our
understanding of and approaches to urban problems (and their
solutions), and to stimulate new thinking in this area.

xii Development and Cities

Sustainable cities of the South:
an introduction

David Westendorff

This Development in Practice Reader builds upon the May 2001 double
issue of Development in Practice, which comprised approximately half
of the papers initially prepared for presentation at the European
Science Foundations annual N-AERUS Workshop, held on 35 May
2000 in Geneva.1 Its title, Cities of the South: Sustainable for Whom?,
reflects concern within the N-AERUS and the host institutions
UNRISD and IREC-EPFL that urban development processes in many
cities of the North and South are being guided by superficial or
misleading conceptions of sustainable development in the urban
context. As will be seen in the contributions to this Reader, the aims of
different groups proposing strategies for the sustainable development
of cities tend to skew their arguments about what this means and how
to achieve it. Environmentalists who see the pollution-free city as the
only sustainable one may be willing to sacrifice the only affordable form
of mass transport for poor people, or dirty low-tech jobs that provide
them their meagre living. Those pursuing the globally competitive city
may succeed in attracting foreign and domestic investments that boost
economic growth and productivity, but which concentrate the benefits
of growth very narrowly, leaving an increasingly large majority to live in
penury at the foot of glass skyscrapers. Beleaguered bureaucrats
attempting to improve or extend public infrastructure may adopt
financing mechanisms that weaken poorer groups capacity to benefit
from the newly installed infrastructure, even though they bear a
disproportionate share of the costs of paying for it. International
organisations seeking to promote more effective governance of cities may
encourage decentralisation processes that fragment responsibility in
the absence of legal, administrative, and institutional frameworks to
organise and finance governmental responsibilities
at the local level. Such a vacuum may be filled by local bosses or
other power brokers who have little interest in the common good.

In different ways, our various contributors focus on these
The contributions are grouped into four partially overlapping
categories. The first group comments on different aspects of the
international challenges to achieving sustainable cities. In the second
group, researcher-practitioners from Africa, Asia, and Latin America
offer their understanding of the principles that would have to be
followed in order to achieve sustainable development in their cities, and
the current set of constraints against doing so. These chapters
necessarily touch on the contested roles of international agencies and
bilateral donors in shaping national strategies for urban sustainable
development. The next five contributions discuss issues of housing and
land-use management in cities of developing countries. The next
group, comprising two contributions, provides updates on new
information technologies that may play important roles in planning for
sustainable development, whether in cities, their regions, or countries.
This collection ends with a salutary reminder from Hlne Rivire
dArc that planners solutions to the problems of poor people have long
been formed by a technocratic vision and expressed in a technocratic
language. These rarely reflect the language or the approaches to
the problems the marginalised groups themselves elect to use. The
misapprehension of the meaning and role of community remains a
crucial dis-connect for many planners and urban officials.
In the first of the two papers on the international context for urban
sustainable development, Adriana Allen chronicles the impact of the
increasing internationalisation of Argentinas fishing industry on the
city of Mar del Plata. This process included the transition from small-
scale producers catering for local markets to larger highly capitalised
international fishing enterprises producing for export markets. As neo-
liberal policies of deregulation pushed catches to unsustainable levels
in the 1990s, Mar del Platas native fishing and canning industries
became progressively sidelined by foreign competitors operating in
Argentinian waters. Over time, Mar del Platas unions could provide
less and less protection to workers, enterprises cut back on investments
in plant and equipment, and the citys tax revenues began to fall,
affecting its ability to provide infrastructure and enforce environmental
standards in the port area, etc.. Today, the prospects for sustaining
decent livelihoods and living conditions for Mar del Platas residents
are as uncertain as the fate of the fish from which it has drawn its
sustenance for decades. In the second of these papers, Amitabh Kundu

2 Development and Cities

reviews the recent experience of a number of large Indian cities in
financing infrastructure through domestic and international capital
markets since the imposition of structural adjustment policies in the
early 1990s. One of the authors major concerns is that the stringent
mechanisms for assuring repayment of loans increasingly take decision
making about the design and implementation of infrastructure out of
the hands of local governments and place it with entities whose chief
concern is an adequate rate of return to investors in the short run. This
transfer of decision making is modelled largely on the experience of the
USA and is being promoted through international institutions such as
the World Bank and regional development banks, and with the support
of like-minded bilateral donors. Its suitability to the Indian context is
challenged because it appears to exacerbate intra- and inter-regional
disparities in infrastructure and service delivery, thus reinforcing
already unacceptably high levels of social segmentation.
The first of the six contributions discussing regional experiences
in achieving sustainable cities is the review by Wilbard J. Kombe of
efforts to revitalise urban planning and management in the Tanzanian
capital Dar es Salaam during the 1990s by means of the Environmental
Planning and Management (EPM) promoted by Habitat (UNHCS) and
the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Sustainable
Dar es Salaam Project was established in 1992 as the vehicle for guiding
this effort. Kombe focuses on the functioning of two of the nine
working groups established to propose solutions to the most pressing
habitat problems in the city and to facilitate and monitor their
implementation. The working groups were an important innovation in
that they were designed to include all the parties that could materially
affect the success of the proposed solutions. While both working
groups appear to have mobilised new collective forms of problem
solving, their most important proposals could not be implemented.
Vested interests among stakeholders, institutional inertia, bureaucratic in-
fighting, and a lack of political will at the central level all stood in the
way. Diego Carrin then paints in broad brushstrokes how Latin American
geo-political processes of democratisation, structural adjustment, state
reform, including decentralisation, liberalisation of economies via
privatisation, etc., are bringing about a sea-change in the way cities are
governed. This transforms the processes for deciding how to proceed
towards sustainable urban development. The authors particular
concern is that civil society organisations (CSOs) especially those at
the grassroots and local authorities are assuming many of the

Sustainable cities of the South 3

responsibilities for sustaining society and its habitat. To move in this
direction requires that local authorities facilitate community
participation in ways that have rarely been adopted before. Carrin
proposes six principles to guide local authorities efforts to include
CSOs in the planning and implementation of new development
Jaime Joseph prefers the term sustainable human development
when discussing a better future for the residents of Limas vast
informal settlements. In this megacity, most housing is constructed by
those who live in it. These same residents have often provided
themselves with the necessary infrastructure to sustain their living
conditions, even if only at subsistence levels. Repeated waves of
structural adjustment in recent decades have made this a way of life for
many. This must be a premise for efforts to achieve sustainable
development in the city, i.e. they must take a decentralised approach,
relying on grassroots organisations, their supporters in civil society,
and the local authorities. But sustainable improvements in material
and social life must be built upon a culture of development and
democracy. This is being nurtured in Limas public spaces, informal
opportunities in which community organisations, NGOs, and
sometimes local authorities, join in open debate about how to develop
their neighbourhoods and districts. If properly supported with
information, ethical practices in debate and decision making, and
legislative support, the nascent process of political development will
take root and flower. The environment for this is not optimal, however,
as the Peruvian economy, weakened by structural adjustment and civil
strife in the 1990s, is today further threatened by imports from a
global economy that undercut employment opportunities for poor
people in Lima and the rest of the country. Without a respite from this
desperate competition, positive change may be stymied.
Karina Constantino-Davids experience of attempting to bring
decent housing and habitat to Manilas poor leads her to frame
sustainable development in cities as a question of achieving
sustainable improvements in the quality of life. Standing in the way
of this aim in the Philippines is the countrys current model of
parasitic development the blind pursuit of economic growth
through global competitiveness and foreign investment. This process
is driving the deterioration of the quality of life in Filipino cities.
Five distinct but overlapping power groups the state, business, the
dominant church, the media, and international aid agencies share

4 Development and Cities

responsibility for this. In Constantino-Davids opinion, the only possible
path out of this morass is to pay more attention to the earths carrying
and caring capacity. She furthermore highlights the often negative role
that foreign assistance plays in curtailing attention to these issues in
the Philippines.
Darshini Mahadevia reviews initiatives taken in India over the past
decade to improve either urban development or the urban environment
or the conditions of life for the cities poor. These are a disparate range
of initiatives undertaken by central and local government, civil society
organisations, or the judicial system. Sometimes external assistance is
involved, sometimes not. But these efforts are rarely conceived with a
view to the possibilities of mutual reinforcement or synergetic interaction.
Nor do they attempt to take a people-centred approach in which the
concerns of poor people take precedence in a model that relates all
development concerns in a holistic manner. In his chapter on the
growing urban crisis in India, P.G. Dhar Chakrabarti identifies several
of the most important causes behind the failure of sub-national
governments to halt the decay of living conditions in the countrys
cities. More important than the absence of funds for upgrading urban
infrastructure and services is the lack of capacity of government
agencies and authorities to use the resources available for this purpose.
This absence of capacity continues despite constitutional amendments
of 1992 which, in theory, give local authorities far greater powers to
administer and finance their own affairs. Indeed, the kinds of reforms
and improvements in local government capacity that were expected to
follow the constitutional amendments have been abysmally slow. As
evidence of their continuing weakness, the author cites the failure of
local authorities to take up highly effective and affordable technologies
for rainwater collection, sanitation, and building materials. He calls for
a reform of the reform process as a first step in the right direction.
At the mid-way point of this collection, Adrian Atkinson surveys the
evolution of external assistance agencies (bilateral and multilateral
donors, UN agencies, the development banks and foundations, and
international NGOs) support to programmes and projects in cities of
the South. These agencies have only very recently taken on an explicit
concern for urban sustainable development, and tend to reflect
variable and often specious understandings of what the concept means.
The main international urban co-operation programmes, such as in
transport, sanitation, and water supply, have been fragmented and
often politically, socially, and technologically unsustainable, even in the

Sustainable cities of the South 5

short term. New forms and approaches to external assistance are
emerging, albeit slowly, tentatively, and on a small scale. The author
highlights some of the most pertinent to urban sustainable development,
but notes that they are being attempted in a particularly adverse
international environment. For example, programmes and projects to
alleviate poverty within cities may be being implemented within a
political and ideological framework that tends to generate more
poverty. Banashree Bannerjees paper on the Andhra Pradesh Urban
Services for the Poor (APUSP) project describes a state-of-the-art
partnership between a bilateral donor and the state government of
Andhra Pradesh to promote sustained improvements in living
conditions for the urban poor.2 The project does not overtly promise to
deliver the sustainable city in Andhra Pradesh, but it does acknowledge
and require a series of inputs from other sectors of society that are
necessary if not sufficient conditions for achieving this goal. The
programme attempts to bring these inputs and conditions together by
making explicit a framework for strengthening grassroots civil society
and for creating incentives for municipal authorities to achieve the
same. Indeed, AP-USP appears to have been formulated to address,
among other concerns, the lack of planned synergy among existing
anti-poverty and urban development programmes in India (see also
Mahadevia in this volume), the weakness of local authorities in raising
or using available resources and innovations to the benefit of urban
residents (highlighted by Chakrabarti), the lack of effective grassroots
participation in decision making, either because of weaknesses in
CSOs themselves (referred to by Joseph and Constantino-David) or the
failure of the process to be opened to representatives of low-income or
marginalised groups (issues also raised by both Kombe and Brown).
In the first of five contributions concerned with urban housing
and habitat, Erhard Berner argues that because the large majority
of housing in cities in developing countries is self-constructed,
government-run schemes to provide adequate housing are too small-
scale to serve the growing demand, and its products are too expensive
to be affordable for low-income groups. He presents two brief case
studies of efforts to integrate practices of informal housing markets
particularly incremental structural upgrading by the residents into
government programmes. These were aimed at making the housing
provided under government programmes more affordable. In the case
of the Community Mortgage Programme in the Philippines, the
programme succeeded for about two thirds of the residents in

6 Development and Cities

upgraded slums. The poorest third tended to be forced out, however,
because they were eventually obliged to pay a rent in the upgraded
neighbourhood that they could not afford. In a different approach
attempted in Hyderabad, in Pakistan, the scheme worked well
economically but failed for other reasons: namely, stiff resistance from
those accustomed to profiting from informal and formal land markets.
Geoffrey Payne approaches the question of the costs of formality
from a different angle. In many countries, some even within the
European Union, a large proportion of housing is constructed outside
formal regulatory frameworks, i.e. the dwellings are illegal to some
extent. This is done to avoid the costs of meeting official standards that
are deemed unaffordable by homeowners. Often these standards are
remnants of a colonial past and were never intended to be applied
to the population as a whole. In other situations, standards and
bureaucratic formalities persist because they yield formal income
(fees, service charges) and informal income (graft) to interested parties
within the government. The author proposes that where standards are
set artificially high, they should be lowered in order to help lower-
income groups continue to provide and improve housing for
themselves without threat of legal sanctions. Understanding what
constitutes artificially or unnecessarily high standards in a given
national context is a theme on which research is needed. In the
following paper, Alison Brown shows that the continuing impact of
apartheid land-use planning and regulations in Harare impedes
convenient access by poor people to public spaces that provide both
economic opportunity and affordable leisure activities. Planners need
to recognise the limited alternatives available within the city for these
groups and guide future changes in the urban fabric in a way that
enhances opportunities for poor people to help themselves.
The last two contributions in this group describe innovative
partnerships to bring about better and more affordable housing to the
residents of the cities of Cuba and Buenos Aires in Argentina. In the
first, Carlos Garca-Pleyn describes the process by which a consortium
of Cuban architects, planners, and government administrators is
attempting to assist in the transformation of low-income urban
neighbourhoods and housing provision processes on the island. The
group began developing its efforts in the 1990s as Cubas economic
and technological support from Eastern bloc countries disintegrated.
This process stimulated new thinking about how to manage with
existing resources the transitions needed in Cuban cities. For

Sustainable cities of the South 7

Habitat-Cuba this means doing things that have not been done before:
mobilising residents of low-income areas to participate in the trans-
formation of their neighbourhoods; establishing economic, cultural,
and environmental sustainability of proposed solutions; and stimulating
both interaction and co-operation among all the social actors involved
in the transformation processes. According to Fernando Murillo the
approach to government-sponsored low-income housing provision in
Buenos Aires could not be more different: with the encouragement and
technical assistance of the World Bank, the city developed a programme,
Casa Propia, that would rely on a publicprivate sector partnership to
finance new low-income housing. Indeed, the private sectors
contribution was to be large: scarce land for construction, the design
and construction of the apartments, and the bulk of the mortgages. The
citys contribution was to identify qualified low-income buyers and to
act as guarantor of their mortgages. In practice, the private developers
of Casa Propia targeted the project to the top end of the low-income
bracket, as higher-cost apartments would yield higher absolute profits
than lower-cost apartments. Indeed, most of the buyers tended to be at
or slightly above the income barrier separating the eligible low-income
groups and the ineligible lower-middle income groups. True low-
income households could not afford the monthly mortgage payments
for Casa Propia. And while low-income families could not gain entry
into the programme, many living in the communities in the immediate
vicinity of Casa Propia were forced to leave because of rising rents in
the area. Other nearby low-income residents lost their local green
spaces, and experienced greater traffic congestion and other environmental
inconveniences. These and other less positive outcomes forced the city
and its private partners to reconsider the validity of this form of
partnership, and to halt the project after only approximately a third of
the total apartments planned had been built.
The debate on the capacity of information technology to help poor,
marginalised, or isolated groups to leapfrog gaps in knowledge and
hence development will continue for a long time to come. The two
papers included on this subject discuss technologies that are undoubtedly
of interest to the major actors in the sustainable development debate.
From the perspective of both grassroots and formal sector urban
planners and decision makers, Internet connectivity is proving a boon
in the North, as Cesare Ottolini argues. However, the evidence of its use
in developing countries is patchy and inconclusive, especially with
regard to urban grassroots actors in the housing and local

8 Development and Cities

development fields. New research should be undertaken, involving
these actors, to find out how the technology may become more
accessible and useful to them. Earth observation technologies, on the
other hand, have by virtue of their development costs been limited to
use by Northern countries and even then by the better-resourced
planning and development agencies. Carlo Lavalle et al. report on
efforts by the European Commission (EC) Centre for Earth
Observation of the ECs Directorate General Joint Research Centre to
apply earth observation technologies to the understanding of urban
development patterns and their consequences for sustainable
development as defined by the EU. These efforts have recently been
extended to the analysis of a number of cities in countries that will be
joining the EU and megacities in several developing countries. The
authors believe this technology will be useful and inexpensive for
developing countries both because of its ease of use and the availability
of EC funding for technology transfer.
While it is impossible to sum up the lessons to emerge from the
collection in a few short sentences, certain points are repeated. The
meaning of sustainable cities or sustainable urban development is
frequently manipulated to meet the ends of the agencies or persons
using the phrase. Yet most of the authors in this collection, and indeed
attending the N-AERUS Workshop, tend to agree that the sustainable
city is one:
that genuinely pursues improvements in livelihood and habitat for
all in the short, medium, and long run without damaging in the
process the carrying capacity of the citys hinterland or other
in which decentralised governance, democracy, and non-exploitative
community participation are necessary but insufficient conditions
to move cities in this direction;
in which adverse macro-economic environments and especially
unfettered international economic competition are likely to retard
movement in the right direction; and
in which a strong, just state is an essential asset for pursuing true
social, economic, and environmental sustainability.
Less clear are the value of external assistance (foreign aid) in promoting
sustainable development when the basic needs of the population
remain grossly unmet; the promotion of partnerships for
implementing sustainable development strategies and programmes in

Sustainable cities of the South 9

the absence of a willingness on the part of the most influential partners
to share power and information with the least powerful partners; and
the decentralisation and privatisation of state responsibilities in the
context of vacuums of power and capability at lower levels.
On balance, the reading of this volume suggests that sustainable
cities in developing countries will have to be built upon broader and
deeper local-level and national civil society organisations than exist
today. These organisations will, moreover, need far more access to and
preparation for participation in decision-making forums, including at
the international level. While national and sub-national governments
have a responsibility to heed the will of their people, and to prepare
them for active citizenship, some countries willingness to do so
remains in question. It will therefore be crucial for agencies of
international governance and for bilateral donors to assist countries in
acknowledging their responsibilities in this regard and to ensure that
as external actors their own actions do not hamper the development of
vibrant CSOs in developing countries.

David Westendorff
United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)

Acknowledgements workshop. I would also like to thank

colleagues at UNRISD who facilitated
The N-AERUS Workshop for which many aspects of the workshop and its
drafts of these and other papers not follow-up: Wendy Salvo for her able
included here were prepared was
handling of liaison with the United
supported by grants from the European
Nations Office in Geneva, where the
Science Foundation (ESF), the Swiss
meeting took place; Liliane Ursache for
Agency for Development and Co-
preparing multiple agendas, participant
operation (SDC), the French Ministry of
lists, and other essential documents, and
International Affairs, and UNRISD.
for helping with logistical concerns; Janna
Special thanks are owed to SDC for its
Lehmann for administrative backup
grant to enable participants from
during and after the workshop; and
developing countries to attend the
workshop, while the Institute for the Rachael Mann and Katy Agg who assisted
Built Environment of the Federal in preparing the annotated resource list
Polytechnic of Lausanne and ESF at the end of this Reader. I would also
also contributed intellectual and like to thank Deborah Eade for
organisational support. allowing N-AERUS, through the journal
On a personal level, I would to thank Development in Practice, and this Reader,
my co-organisers, Alain Durand-Lasserve to reach audiences whose contributions
and Jean-Claude Bolay, for the to promoting sustainable development
collaboration, guidance, and collegiality in cities are increasingly crucial but who
they offered before and during the would not necessarily follow debates on

10 Development and Cities

the subject in more technically focused Notes
journals on urban planning or urban
studies. Translations from French and 1 Network-Association of European
Spanish where necessary were Researchers on Urbanisation in the
undertaken by Deborah Eade and myself. South (N-AERUS). A brief description
Last, but not least, I would like to thank of the ESF, N-AERUS, the United
all the contributors to the issue of Nations Research Institute for Social
Development in Practice on which this Development (UNRISD), and the
volume is based for their willingness to Institut pour Recherche sur
undertake the multiple and sometimes lEnvironnement Construit-Ecole
substantial revisions requested by me in Polytechnicque Fdrale de Lausanne
my role as guest editor. (IREC-EPFL) can be found on page
2 For reasons beyond the control of the
author and editor, this paper did not
appear in the May 2001 issue of
Development in Practice.

Sustainable cities of the South 11

Urban sustainability under
threat: the restructuring of the fishing
industry in Mar del Plata, Argentina

Adriana Allen

Cities are increasingly recognised as the areas in which almost all of

the environmental impacts of development are felt. It is also
increasingly recognised that development strategies must ensure that
todays gains do not result in cities that will need radical restructuring
in the future because they need more resources and have too great an
impact on the environment to be sustainable. However, a significant
outcome of macro-economic restructuring is that the globalisation
process is generating social and environmental conflicts in specific
localities. While it is clear why we should focus attention on the urban
environ-ment and sustainable development, the precise relationship
between macro-economic strategies and the sustainability of
contemporary urban development trends remains largely unexplored
(Burgess et al. 1997).
The need to assess development in the light of its social,
environmental, and political impacts is the central concern of this
paper, which focuses on the emergence of a socio-environmental
conflict resulting from the restructuring of the Argentinian fishing
industry in the city of Mar del Plata. The experiences we shall describe
are typical of those facing many medium- and small-sized cities in
Argentina which, unlike the metropolitan areas, are finding it
increasingly difficult to reposition themselves in an open economy.
Recent macro-economic reforms in the country have had an impact not
only on the local economy of such cities, but also on their political,
social, natural, and physical sustainability.
Argentinas local fishing industry developed in the post-war period
according to a Fordist model, whereby production processes and forms
of labour organisation were standardised, but which sought to guarantee
workers a living wage. This model was supported by a series of
regulatory institutions, which included the principle of collective
bargaining, the establishment of minimum wages, and formal contracts

12 Development and Cities

of work. These were backed up by a welfare state whose role was to
assist all individuals to have access to the market. Since the 1980s,
industrial production in Argentina, as in most of Latin America, has
shifted from Fordism to liberal-productivism. But, as Lipietz reminds
us, [a]s with Fordism, liberal-productivism fosters a use of natural
resources which makes no sense, as the ecological debt which past and
present generations are handing on to future generations will have
to be paid for in the next forty years (Lipietz 1992: 321). The main
difference between the two systems lies in the increasing domination
by transnational markets of national and local political actors (Gould et al.
In Argentina, the shift from Fordism has been shaped by political
changes, economic instability, heavy debt-servicing, and the dramatic
reduction of public investment in social expenditure and infrastructure.
Argentinas economic reform can be divided into two periods:
stagnation and instability between 1976 and 1990, and a period of
macro-economic recovery and economic growth since the 1991
Convertibility Plan. During the earlier period, the abandonment of the
import-substitution culture and the process of trade reform were the
initial catalysts of the conditionalities imposed by the World Bank in
return for trade policy loans. These resulted in increased under-
utilisation of industrial plant, sizeable reductions in productivity and
real wages, and growing inequality in income distribution.1
During the second period, which started in 1991 and is still ongoing,
import liberalisation went far beyond the requirements of the inter-
national financial institutions and full liberalisation became part of a
wide-ranging plan to deregulate the economy. Argentinas so-called
New Economic Model (NEM) consists of internal and external reforms
dealing with macro-economic stability, opening up of the economy,
fiscal reform, privatisation and financial liberalisation, technological
modernisation, and the redefinition of the role of the state. These
reforms rapidly stabilised and expanded the economy, and profoundly
restructured national patterns of consumption and production. Such
developments brought dramatic social and environmental changes in
their wake, particularly in urban areas.
Since 1991, and after a decade of economic recession, urban-based
manufacturing industries (particularly food industries) have been the
most dynamic sector, shifting from the domestic market to export.
However, this growth has not translated into higher incomes because
of the lack of growth in formal employment and lack of capital growth

Urban sustainability under threat 13

per worker in the informal sector.2 The economy of small- and
medium-sized cities like Mar del Plata, where most such industries are
based, relies increasingly on the exploitation of natural resources,
processed or raw. In order to face the difficulties posed by the opening
up of the economy, activities like the fishing industry have based their
international competitiveness on the informalisation of processing
activities, unsustainable exploitation of the natural resources on which
they depend, and externalising (i.e. disregarding) the environmental
costs. The national government regards current social and environ-
mental problems as an unavoidable consequence of economic growth
and stabilisation that might eventually have to be tackled through
investments to clean up the environment and through social assistance
for the most vulnerable groups. But the prospects for even such narrow
environmental and social policies are strongly constrained by the
countrys low rate of national savings.3
This paper will argue that contemporary processes of industrial
restructuring that are prompted by neo-liberal macro-economic
strategies not only accelerate competition over environmental resources
but also promote the short-term maximisation of profits through
socially and environmentally unsustainable mechanisms. As a result,
not only are local livelihoods negatively affected and environmental
conditions worsened but also existing regulations governing natural
resources are transformed, which introduces new struggles between
local and external stakeholders. This paper will first examine the social
and environmental impacts of macro-economic strategies that, obsessed
with growth, often overlook these dimensions of the development
process. It will then look at the reconfiguration of local stakeholders,
their power relations, behaviour, and rhetoric, and the institutional
arrangements that emerge when industrial expansion goes beyond the
limits of natures resilience. In short, the paper examines how the
intensification of environmental conflicts within specific localities
results in new forms of governance, and asks whether the new regulatory
frameworks effectively confront long-term power associations or
simply perpetuate relations of dependence and depletion.

The sustainability of urban development: towards an

analytical framework
Many discussions of sustainability invoke the idea of a three ring
circus, in which sustainable development (SD) is about the
intersection of encompassing social, environmental, and economic

14 Development and Cities

goals (see Figure 1). Although this model represents a great advance on
previous perspectives, it perhaps does not go far enough for two reasons.
First, it says little about the trade-offs and contradictions inherent in
the pursuit of economic, social, and environmental goals. Second, it
provides a picture that is still too abstract to explain how the relation-
ship between growth, development, and environment unfolds at the
urban level, and how macro-economic strategies and urban social and
environmental problems relate to each other.4

Figure 1: The three ring circus model of sustainable development (SD)




Liveability Efficiency


In order to assess whether contemporary processes of urban

development are moving towards or away from sustainability, we must
consider the way in which the concept of sustainability redefines the
social, economic, environmental, and political performance of urban
development. In cities, environmental performance is defined not only
in terms of the use and appropriation of the natural resource base or
natural capital but also in terms of the performance of the physical or
built environment. Thus, assessing the sustainability of the urban
development process will depend on the trends and challenges
associated with the dimensions discussed below.

Urban sustainability under threat 15

Economic sustainability (ES), defined as the ability of the local
economy to sustain itself without causing irreversible damages to the
natural resource base on which it depends, implies maximising the
productivity of a local economy (urban or regional) not in absolute
terms (e.g. increase of economic capital) but in relation to the
sustainability of the other four dimensions and their respective
capitals. In this sense, ES has to be pursued in the context of a bio-
regional rationality, which ensures that a given region produces and
consumes within the natural limits of its surroundings, and that it does
not do this by exporting environmental degradation to other regions.
Increasingly, economic globalisation is promoting competition among
cities and between cities and the regions on which their production is
based, and is thus reshaping urban economies. In this sense, the
achievement of ES implies the need to fix a certain ceiling to the
competitiveness of urban economies so that they do not improve at the
expense of other areas or compromise the long-term use of their own
natural resource base.
Social sustainability (SS) is defined as a set of actions and policies
aimed at the improvement of quality of life, but also at the fair access
and distribution of rights over the use and appropriation of the natural
and built environment. SS implies the improvement of local living
conditions by reducing poverty levels and increasing the satisfaction of
basic needs. SS involves the consolidation of popular economic
strategies, as a means of articulating the relationships between house-
hold survival strategies and the strategies deployed by the public and
private sectors. SS also implies addressing the regressive impacts
produced by the process of economic globalisation through policies
focused on reintegrating those who are marginalised by such a process.
Natural sustainability (NS) is understood as the rational management
of natural resources, and of the pressures exerted by the waste
produced by societies, which demands an integrated view of local,
regional, national, and international development and environmental
trends. Natural sustainability is linked to the potential of urban regions
to extract natural resources, and the management of the productivity
of these resources. In a context characterised by increasing pressures
from a global economy, urban systems are less able directly or indirectly
to maintain the sustainable use of their natural resources. The over-
exportation of natural capital and growing inequity in the access to and
distribution of rights in respect of the natural resources of a city or
region increasingly compromise the sustainability of natural capital.

16 Development and Cities

Physical sustainability (PS) is defined as the capacity and aptitude of
the urban built environment and techno-structures to support human
life and productive activities. Crises in natural and physical sustainability
are strongly linked. In Argentina, ruralurban migration in the 1950s
was connected with the failure of national policies to develop an
intensive agriculture model and a network of agro-production services
centres. Since the 1960s, the crisis of physical sustainability has been
manifested in metropolitan and large medium-sized cities like Mar del
Plata, through the imbalance between in-migration and the carrying
capacity of these cities in terms of natural resources and technical
Political sustainability (PS) is understood as the democratisation and
participation of the local civil society in decision-making processes.
This concept refers to the sustainability of urban governance, that is,
the ability of local society to use its political capital in regulating the
relationship between the previous four dimensions. Again, the
predominance of outside and market forces in bringing about global
change is increasingly challenging this ability at the local level.
Figure 2 shows the relationship among these five dimensions of
urban sustainability. While economic, social, natural, and physical
sustainability are represented as four angles of the urban development
process, political sustainability is represented as the governance frame-
work regulating the performance of the other four dimensions. The
circle represents the ecological capacity of the urban region to deal with
the pressures of the four angles. The extent to which social, economic,
natural, and physical performance is sustainable depends on whether
these pressures are kept within the ecological capacity of the urban
regional ecosystem.
Looking at current trends affecting urban sustainability, there is a
growing polarisation between the two diagonals presented in Figure 3.
On the one hand, urban sustainability is increasingly related to the
processes of change governing the relationship between economic and
natural performance through the re-primarisation of urban economies,
i.e. the process by which local economies become ever more reliant on
the exploitation of the resource base of their surroundings, so straining
the limits of natural regeneration. On the other hand, social and
physical performance are closely related in the experiences of large
sectors of the urban population living in poverty and lacking adequate
living conditions. This is related to the environmental conditions of
urban systems as the living and working environment of a large

Urban sustainability under threat 17

Figure 2: The five dimensions of urban sustainability






number of people and includes a specific concern for lower-income

communities, which are particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts
of urban development. At the same time, environmental problems
affect the livelihood strategies of these communities and decrease their
access to different types of assets (including access to natural resources
such as land, water, energy, and so forth).
In terms of the level at which decisions are made with regard to these
two critical trends, we see that the diagonal of economic and natural
performance is increasingly dominated by decisions made externally,
while the diagonal of social and physical performance is being shaped
by the decentralisation of responsibilities and decisions from the
national to the local level. Given that the decentralisation of the
decisions related to these two dimensions is seldom accompanied by
the resources needed to be able to respond in a meaningful fashion,
this is often referred to as the decentralisation of the urban crisis (Pirez
The following sections will examine the links between the decisions
made at the four angles of urban sustainability and the political
sustainability or governance framework that regulates their relationship.

The fishing industry in Mar del Plata

The coastal city of Mar del Plata,5 in the province of Buenos Aires, has
traditionally been the centre of national tourism and of the domestic

18 Development and Cities

Figure 3: The impact of micro-economic strategies on urban sustainability

competition Rising
between local employment
and extra-local and social
market actors exclusion




















Increasing Reduction of
pressure public investments
and depletion and deterioration
of natural of the physical
resources environment

fishing industry, which consists of processing fresh sea produce into

frozen, canned, and fishmeal products. Both activities have been based
on the citys natural comparative advantage a long coastline with
some of Argentinas best beaches, and easy access to the rich fishing
grounds of the south-west Atlantic. Thus, national policies dating back
to the late 1940s turned Mar del Plata into a favourite working-class
holiday destination and a decade later into a dynamic industrial city,
attracting thousands of migrants from the rest of the country.
Commercial fishing in Mar del Plata began in the early twentieth
century with a small local market supplied by local fishermen. Towards
1915, immigrant communities contributed two essential elements to
the development of maritime fishing: the incorporation of Europeans
(who were traditionally fish consumers) and the settlement of people
qualified in the trade. In 1922, the citys harbour was completed and
the area became the working and residential centre of the Italian
community.6 Gradually, changes in technology and communications
saw a shift from artisanal to industrialised production. Towards 1942,
protectionist policies helped the local fishing industry to displace
canned imports. National jurisdiction over the continental shelf was
established in 1945, and from the 1960s the fishing industry was
further promoted through various government policies and subsidies.

Urban sustainability under threat 19

The introduction of the filleting process and the marketing of
packaged fillets were central to the rapid industrialisation of fishing
activities in the 1960s, when frozen fish displaced canned fish as the
main product. Local firms were originally based on family enterprises,
mostly of Italian origin, and simultaneously embraced the activities of
fishing, industrialisation, and trade. The local fleet was mainly oriented
to coastal fishing but local firms expanded during the 1960s and made
significant investments in offshore vessels and land-based factories,
where fresh fish was processed into fillets and fishmeal.7 Thus, Mar del
Plata consolidated its role as the centre of the national fishing industry.
Since then, the Argentinian hake (Merluccius hubssi) became the
main commercial species and the focus of the local fishing industries.
In 1973 the government adopted an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
that extended 200 miles from the shore, establishing the exclusive
right of Argentinian vessels to fish in the zone, which includes one of
the worlds largest continental platforms (1,164,500km2). At the same
time, national firms were encouraged to incorporate foreign factory
and trawler vessels, and the fishing industry began to produce and
export frozen merchandise. Despite this, production was still focused
on the domestic market.
Restructuring of the fishing industry took place in two phases. The
first began in 1976 with the military coup, when a dualistic approach
was adopted towards the fishing sector. While the military rgime
reaffirmed national industrial interests and rights over the Argentine
Sea, it also opened up to foreign fishing rights and investments. The
second phase corresponds to the structural changes initiated in 1989
under the Menem administration and later consolidated with the 1991
Convertibility Plan. It was characterised by an aggressive attempt to
insert Argentinas exports into a more competitive international
economy, the liberalisation of business transactions, and the restructuring
of labour relations including the flexibilisation of terms and conditions.
How did these two sets of structural changes affect the national and
local fishing industry?
In 1976 the military rgime created the Secretary of Agriculture,
Cattle, Fishing, and Food (SAGPyA) and the National Institute for
Research and Fishing Development (INIDEP). These institutions
became the policy and scientific bodies for regulating fishing at the
national level. With a view to decentralising fishing from Mar del Plata
down to the southern coast of Patagonia, new policies granted special
benefits to fishing exports from the latter region. In practice, this

20 Development and Cities

became an opportunity for foreign companies to form joint ventures
with the Argentine fleet in order to gain access to the then under-
exploited fishing grounds of the Argentine shelf. These new enterprises
were granted special benefits, tax breaks, and rights to exploit the
fishing grounds south of the 41 parallel. Hence, between 1976 and
1979 the total hake catch increased by 215 per cent, freezing and storing
capacities increased by 210 per cent and 232 per cent, respectively,
while fish exports rose by 220 per cent in tonnes and by 449 per cent
in US dollar value (Pagani and Bertolotti 1991).
In 1982, the Falklands/Malvinas war ended with the British victory.
The long-standing dispute over these islands was in fact a conflict over
the adjacent fishing zone. The British government established an
administrative fishing zone around the islands and granted fishing
rights to foreign fleets, while Argentina signed agreements with
Bulgaria and the Soviet Union over the same fishing grounds. Between
1982 and 1987 new and existing firms started to focus on the
exploitation of squid in the region of Patagonia. Special support from
the provincial governments saw the capacity of the regions fishing
industry increase by 87 per cent. This shift was accompanied by
changes in production, from the exploitation and processing of hake to
other species; from national land-based factories to long-distance
foreign factory ships; and from combined domestic and export-
oriented enterprises to an almost exclusively export-oriented market.
Figure 4 shows the close relationship between the growth of catches
and exports.
Since 1991, the opening up of the economy, together with a series of
changes in the regulations governing the fishing industry, led to a
second transformation, which brought with it a new cadre of actors and
new power relations.8 With the expansion of fishing rights to the
foreign long-range fleet and the creation of partnerships between
European and national enterprises, catches doubled in a few years,
leading to the collapse of the Argentine hake, until then the main
commercial species.

Towards or against sustainability?

We now turn to the impact of the restructuring process on local fishing
in Mar del Plata and on the development of the city.
Economic performance
The local fishing industry played a key role in the development of Mar

Urban sustainability under threat 21

Figure 4: Evolution of fish catches and volume of exports, Argentina, 19601996


1000 Exports

Tonnage (thousands)









60 62 64 66 68 70 72 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96
Source: Based on national statistics collected by SAGPYA 1997

del Plata, generating a significant share of the urban economic output

and constituting one of the main sources of employment. Over the last
two decades, this sub-sector has undergone major restructuring in
Argentina.9 Despite significant changes in the number of industrial
units and personnel employed over the period, in 1994 the fishing
industry still accounted for 33.1 per cent of the total value of industrial
production, 36.4 per cent of the total industrial employment, and 6.1
per cent of all industrial establishments.
The fluctuation in the number of fishing establishments is associated
with the increasing competition of foreign fleets and firms operating
in the south of the country, but also with the shift from the combined
domestic and external market to almost exclusively the latter. Only
45,000 tonnes of fish was exported in 1973, compared with 270,000
tonnes in 1987. In 1996, the local fishing industry accounted for 93 per
cent of total exports from the area, i.e. 12 per cent of the gross product

22 Development and Cities

of Mar del Plata (MGP 1997). Today, almost all the local fish production
is for export, representing almost 40 per cent of national exports
(Madaria 1999). Consequently, local firms have become increasingly
dependent upon and exposed to fluctuations in the international
market. At the time when the national market was opened to foreign
capital, local firms were characterised by low productivity, low levels of
diversification, and the inability to invest in new technologies in order
to meet these challenges.
Between 1994 and 1995, industrial activity in the city diminished by
5 per cent and total industrial employment decreased by 3.8 per cent,
one of the results of the Convertibility Plan on production previously
geared to the domestic market. The fishing industry was the only sector
that escaped the general economic recession, increasing its output by
13.6 per cent (Gennero de Rearte 1996). However, the dramatic drop in
the number of firms and personnel employed witnessed in 1994 was
never reversed. As foreign competition increased, many local companies
closed down, and production became centralised in a few enterprises.
Some large companies remained in business by moving to Patagonia
or by forming new firms with foreign investors.
The surviving local companies continued operating with offshore
trawlers and processing their catches in land-based factories. However,
in order to reduce fixed production costs and to deal with the increasing
competition of foreign factory vessels, these companies adopted a
labour flexibilisation strategy, reorganising their workers in co-operatives.
Now, six large enterprises concentrate the local process of catching and
trade, subcontracting most of the production processes to workers co-
operatives. Today, over 66 per cent of the industrial establishments,
including the co-operatives, process fish provided by a few enterprises,
and so are highly exposed to fluctuations in their demands (INIDEP 1998).
The strategy of decentralising by means of subcontracting aspects
of production can be viewed as a renewed form of Fordism (Lipietz
1992) whereby the firm reduces the costs of maintaining a labour force
and gains the flexibility needed to respond to fluctuating demands.
This in turn puts pressure on the subcontracted firms, who are forced
to reduce their costs through providing more precarious working
conditions. Thus, the risks of operating under increasing uncertainty
are transferred towards the lowest links in the production chain. This
has dramatic impacts on the organisation of production and on the
relationship between capital and labour, squeezing labour and avoiding
environmental regulations.

Urban sustainability under threat 23

Social performance
Towards the late 1970s, the local fishing industry employed about
10,000 workers of whom almost 40 per cent were women.10 By 1990,
there were 7000 workers, and by 1992 there were only 3000.11 By 1994,
about one third of those who had lost their jobs in the larger industrial
plants joined co-operatives, while the rest had become unemployed.
By 1996 about 44 per cent of all workers in the fishing industry were
based in co-operatives (INIDEP 1998), but the others who were made
redundant in 1992 have not found work.
The organisation of the labour force into co-operatives took place
over a period of four months between 1991 and 1992. The sheer speed
of the process prevented workers from mounting a defence. Some
workers continued working in the same factories, but lost their status
as full-time salaried employees. In other cases, the workers who were
made redundant formed new co-operatives, operating informally in
small workshops and even households. According to the Institute for
Co-operative Action (IAC), in 1999 only one third of such co-operatives
were fully registered, while the rest operated in the so-called pseudo-
co-operatives, without even the basic infrastructure required for
performing their tasks safely and competitively.
Decentralising the processing phases outside the firms legal and
contractual responsibility did not respond to real principles of co-
operativism, such as egalitarian organisation, collective negotiation
and management of production, or equitable distribution of the
benefits. In fact, the firms imposed this co-operative structure in order
to avoid taxes and social contributions, as well as regulations concerning
the local environment and working conditions In this way, they
established a flexible contractual system, payments became directly
related to productivity, and the risks inherent in a fluctuating demand
were transferred to the workers. These workers lost many of the
rights that had been won over decades of struggle, such as pension
contributions, paid holidays, insurance, and collective bargaining. In
addition, working hours became irregular, depending on the demand
and availability of fish. When the demand goes up, workers will put in
up to 12 hours a day, with no bonuses for working over public holidays
or weekends (field survey).
The impact of this restructuring on workers needs to be examined
in the light of what has happened to employment patterns over the last
20 years. Argentina has traditionally been a salaried society: full
employment policies promoted the social integration of the working

24 Development and Cities

class as citizens with full social, political, and civic rights. With the
dismantling of formal working conditions and the co-operativisation
of the labour force in the early 1990s, the official trade union lost its
clients and bargaining power. A new Unin Obrera del Pescado (UOP)
(Fishworkers Union) emerged in the late 1990s as a parallel organi-
sation, as did an association of women whose families were engaged in
the fishing trade. The role played by these two groups in mobilising to
defend the livelihoods of the local fishing community and against the
depletion of hake, is discussed in the final section of this paper.
Natural performance
The national fleet had enjoyed unrestricted fishing permits that
entitled vessels to fish as much as they wanted of any species. Until the
1980s, the Argentine Sea was among the few major fishing areas of the
world with large unexploited potential. In the 1990s, fisheries expanded
hugely and catches reached a historic maximum in 1997 at 1,341,077
tonnes (Madaria 1999). As noted earlier, the government took a
schizophrenic approach to the industry, on the one hand tightening up
the licensing regime, while on the other offering subsidies for the
incorporation of new vessels and granting new fishing rights.12 Within
a few years, the fishing sector was over-capitalised and over-expanding:
many fish stocks became fully exploited while hake became severely
depleted. This process was further accelerated by an agreement signed
in 1994 to promote ArgentinianEuropean fishing joint ventures.
As discussed above, the fishing industry was focused on hake and
structured around the offshore fleet and land-based processing plants
for the domestic and external market. Until the mid-1980s, the
offshore fleet accounted for the majority of hake landings while the
factory and freezer fleet accounted for 15 per cent. The harbour of Mar
del Plata had a share of 77 per cent of national catches in 1986, which
declined to 35 per cent in 1993 and 31 per cent in 1998 (Madaria 1999).
The lost hegemony of Mar del Plata during the restructuring process
was due to the expansion of a long-range fleet of mixed and foreign
companies which was established in Patagonia. Between 1991 and
1997, while the offshore fleet catches remained almost static, the long-
range fleet quadrupled its catches, and almost all the total catch growth
in recent years has been a direct result of the expansion of that fleet.13
In 1991, INIDEP warned the government that the reduction of hake
biomass and high mortality levels were together rendering the hake
fisheries unsustainable. Disregarding this, SAGPyA continued

Urban sustainability under threat 25

expanding the fishing rights over the Argentine Sea.14 The 1994
agreement with the European Union established a total allowable catch
(TAC) of 250,000 tonnes to be exploited over a period of five years by
joint ventures between Argentinian and European companies or
between European countries. In exchange, the newly formed companies
received tax advantages to export their catches to Europe. The
agreement responded to Europes need to find new fishing grounds in
order for its fishing industry to stay in business. The stated aim of the
agreement was to modernise the national fleet and to diversify from
hake to other species. However, under this agreement, the EU
subsidised the incorporation of approximately 100 freezer trawlers,
which were on average older than the national vessels they were
supposed to replace, and focused on the species already over-exploited
by the national fleet. In addition, the new joint ventures kept the
supposedly replaced vessels in operation, thus expanding the overall
fleet. The fleet of freezer and factory trawlers added significantly to
pressure on the fishing grounds, but generated no local jobs as all the
processing was done on board.
Physical performance
The restructuring of the fishing industry brought not only negative
social and natural consequences but has resulted in the deterioration
of the citys environment, particularly the harbour area where the
fishing activity was focused, as well as being the residential, social, and
political centre of the community. Today, 85 per cent of the fishing
industries are located there, taking up an area of 350 hectares (about 20
per cent of the total urban area). The area has the highest concentration
of slums in the city, with 36 squatter settlements on private and public
land.15 Most of the slum-dwellers were part of the seasonal labour force
of the fishing industry, but many are now without any work. In recent
years, living conditions in the area have been worsened by frequent
floods, due to the accumulation of industrial wastes blocking the
drainage system. The area is also affected by foul-smelling emissions
from fishmeal factories and by the stench of the putrid fish supplied
to them.
Over the years, the harbour had affected the coastline, causing the
erosion of the beaches located to the north of the city. In addition, sand
accumulation in the harbour constrains the operations of the fishing
fleet and demands regular dredging. During the 1960s and 1970s,
there were significant public and private investments in urban

26 Development and Cities

infrastructure. Since the 1980s, the environmental conditions have
deteriorated rapidly, both because the state has withdrawn from
the administration of public utilities (through a combination of
privatisation and decentralisation), and because the industries have cut
costs at the expense of the environment.
During the 1980s, the state, which was historically responsible for
the administration of the harbour, cut public investment in its
improvement and maintenance, and announced in 1994 that the
harbour would be privatised. The local government challenged this
decision and, together with local fishing firms and trade unions,
demanded a role for the local fishing community in the administration
of the harbour. Consequently, a local consortium is now overseeing the
process of privatisation. The local government views this as an
opportunity to improve the infrastructure of the harbour for industrial
purposes and to turn it into an international freight point in order to
revitalise the local economy and the city itself. The plan includes the
removal of the slums settled on public land in order to extend the
regional railway system to the harbour. The proposal has been resisted
by the slum-dwellers and the local government is now considering
relocating the slum-dwellers to the outskirts, while it still seeks possible
investors to modernise the harbour.
The restructuring process has also led to a chronic lack of private
investment in maintaining facilities in the surviving industrial
establishments. Added to this, fishing firms have increasingly tended
to externalise their environmental costs by discharging their wastes
directly into the sewage and drainage systems and also by sub-
contracting parts of the production process to informal co-operatives.
Wastewaters from fishing industries are rich in fats, blood, proteins,
and other organic residues, and, to a lesser degree, chemicals used in
cleaning the plant. Only the larger plants have primary treatment
systems, and most of the co-operatives lack decanting tanks. Today, 60
per cent of the factories discharge their industrial wastewater through
clandestine connections into the drainage and sewage networks or
directly into the sea (INIDEP 1998). Since 1985, Mar del Plata has had
a sewerage treatment station but, because of budget cuts made while it
was being built, it only provides primary treatment: liquid and solid
effluents are separated and then discharged directly into the sea.
As a result, sea and beach pollution has also worsened during the last

Urban sustainability under threat 27

The fishing industry has also been associated with the recent over-
exploitation of groundwater. The citys supply for domestic, industrial,
and agricultural uses relies exclusively on groundwater sources.
Fishing industries account for the highest consumption among
industrial users. In the canning factories, water is used to wash raw
materials and containers and for sterilisation processes. In the cold-
storage factories the main uses are ice production, general hygiene, and
fish processing. Over the years, the port has been particularly affected
by the depression of groundwater levels and has suffered recurrent
water shortages. Since the late 1980s, many factories have installed
clandestine pumping systems to guarantee a supply of water, thus
aggravating the situation. As a consequence, the wells that supply the
area present a high level of salinisation (800900mg/l) and also a high
concentration of chlorites, reaching values of 6000mg/l, far above the
maximum value recommended by WHO as acceptable for human
consumption (700mg/l) (Allen 1999).
The body responsible for monitoring the quality of fish products is
the National Secretary for the Auditing of the Food Sector (SENASA).
The provincial government of Buenos Aires establishes the legal
framework dealing with the control of atmospheric emissions and the
municipal Parastatal Company for Water and Sanitation (OSSE), which
was decentralised in 1985, regulates the emission and treatment of
liquid and solid wastes. Since 1996, a new legal framework introduced
by the provincial government demands the environmental auditing of
all industrial activities. The municipality is responsible for
enforcement while the provincial government assesses the environ-
mental auditing reports. All fishing industries are requested to submit
an environmental audit report in order to obtain a Certificate of
Environmental Aptitude (CEA). In theory, no industry can operate
without such a certificate. However, according to municipal records, in
1998 only 13 per cent of the fish processing plants had submitted an
environmental audit report and only 10 per cent had obtained a CEA.
These figures exclude the many pseudo-co-operatives and informal
establishments of which the municipality has no records (field survey).
The environmental framework regulating the fishing industry has
a poor level of enforcement owing to the dispersed and conflicting
intervention of several agencies. The municipality has acquired a new
role in the environmental management of the city, but this has
squeezed its budget and institutional capacity. Within the local
government, industrial monitoring and infrastructure management

28 Development and Cities

are still two separate spheres, just as the monitoring of fishing and
processing are also regulated, respectively, by national and local bodies.

Conflicts in the aftermath of the restructuring

The Fish War
Following the collapse of hake populations, the government attempted
to impose a system of closed seasons and quotas in defence of national
interests. The local state, firms, and workers of Mar del Plata formed a
coalition, known as the Multisectoral Group, to fight the measure and
demanded the expulsion of the foreign fleet. Under the leadership of
the mayor of Mar del Plata, the Group included representatives of
the trade unions, chambers of the national ship-owners, and land-
processing factories supported by the provincial government of Buenos
Aires. The mixed national-foreign capital firms responded by staking
out their own claim to be part of the national fishing industry, and
were supported in this by the regional governments of Patagonia,
whose meagre economies had slightly improved through the revenues
from the joint companies. Both sides were internally divided, but the
proposed new management regime became the central focus of the
A new Federal Fishing Law was introduced in January 1998 with the
aim of promoting the sustainable development of the fishing industry,
defined as the preservation of natural resources, the promotion of
increased value-added in fishing products, and the use of national
labour. This law established a new division of powers, ratifying
SAGPyA as the implementing authority and creating the Federal
Fishing Council (CFP) as the main national policy-making body. Five
representatives of the national government and one representative
from each of the five provinces with interests in the Argentine Sea form
the CFP. This was a significant change in the decision-making
structure regulating the fishing industry, which shifted from being the
almost exclusive responsibility of the national government to a
collegiate body of stakeholders with representatives from the main
fishing provinces.
In parallel with the creation of the CFP, local and provincial councils
were organised in each fishing harbour and province, with represen-
tatives from the public sector, trade unions, and business chambers.
These councils and the Multisectoral Group in Mar del Plata generated

Urban sustainability under threat 29

a new structure in the governance of the fishing activity and
consolidated the alliance of local stakeholders voicing their demands
before the national authorities.
The second innovation of the law was the abolition of the previous
unrestricted fishing rights and the establishment of a new system of
individual transferable quotas (ITQs) to be allocated to each vessel or
enterprise within the maximum sustainable yield.16 The system was to
be implemented in 1999 but its enforcement was resisted by several
pressure groups operating at the local, provincial, national, and inter-
national level. The main conflict was between the Multisectoral Group
and the long-range fleet. One of the main fears was that the
transferability of the quotas could open the possibility for the larger
firms to acquire those granted to smaller companies in order to
establish monopolies. The law explicitly banned the transference of
fishing quotas to the freezer-factory fleet, and this was resisted by the
joint ventures in Patagonia, where the majority of this fleet operated. A
second concern was the strong reliance of the system on the control and
regulatory capacity of the state to guarantee adherence to the quota
system as well as the fulfilment of conservation measures.
While heated negotiations continued, thus preventing the
implementation of the quota system, increasing uncertainty about the
sustainability of hake populations resulted in a rush to fish, which
aggravated their depletion. In response to another alarming report
issued by INIDEP about the severe decline in the reproductive biomass
of hake, in late April 1999 the CFP prohibited hake fishing from the
beginning of June for an indefinite period. Leading the Multisectoral
Group, the local government of Mar del Plata fought for the fishing
quota to be allocated to the local fishing industry in order to avoid
its collapse and the consequent social crisis. Over 100 vessels from
Mar del Plata blocked the harbour of Buenos Aires in protest, while over
2,000 people demonstrated against the measure in front of the
parliament building, demanding a Fishing Emergency Law. The
protest was supported by demonstrations in other cities and received
general public and media support. The draft Fishing Emergency Law
established the displacement of the freezer fleet to the south of parallel
48 and outside the EEZ and postponed the enforcement of the quota
system until December 1999. This was a short-term measure to defuse
the conflict and gain time to negotiate the distribution of the quotas. In
the meantime, the freezer fleet opposed the draft law and threatened to
block the access of fuel supplies to the whole of Patagonia.

30 Development and Cities

The national media gave massive coverage to the so-called Fish
War. The international fleet claimed that the Emergency Law curtailed
their freedom and rights to operate in the country. This was supported
by the Spanish government, which reacted in defence of Spanish
investment. The Multisectoral Group argued for the nationalisation of
the fishing industry on the grounds of defending the rights of national
and local workers and enterprises to sustain their activity as stated in
the National Constitution. Several environmental NGOs, including
Greenpeace, demanded urgent measures to preserve the hake and
the livelihoods of thousands of workers. Cedepesca, a local NGO,
estimated that 5000 regular workers were to be affected by the closure
of the harbour, plus a further 5000 if temporary workers and jobs
indirectly related to fishing were included. The conflict was brought to
a halt when a group of women from Mar del Plata disrupted a cabinet
session and obtained the commitment of the president to enact the
Emergency Law, granting the right to fish hake to the harbour of Mar
del Plata. This took place just before the elections of October 1999, a
decisive factor in inclining the final decision in favour of the local
fishing industry.
However, after the approval of the Emergency Law, INIDEP revealed
that there were only 50,000 tones of hake left to fish within the
maximum sustainable yield (MSY). A rotating system of closed seasons
was implemented to distribute the remaining TAC among the local
offshore fleet. This was supposed to guarantee the regular supply of
fish to the land-based processing factories and to mitigate the
possibility of massive unemployment in Mar del Plata, but was
insufficient to contain the crisis. The harbour of Mar del Plata
experienced the highest level of inactivity in the history of the local
fishing industry. Most industrial establishments worked only four
months during 1999 and production was reduced to about one third of
its average annual amount (field survey). The co-operatives suffered
even more; many closed down and in those which survived work was
down to less than eight days a month.17
A new local conflict arose over the distribution of the fish supply
between the formal and informal processing sectors. Given that the
supply of fish was controlled by the larger firms that owned the offshore
fleet, the measure benefited these firms at the expense of the co-
operatives and smaller establishments. Challenging the Multisectoral
Group, workers went on strike demanding the regularisation of the
pseudo-co-operatives, the return to a salaried regime, and measures of

Urban sustainability under threat 31

social containment and compensation to reduce the impact of the
plants being inactive during closed seasons.
Cedepesca and the UOP fought for a monthly compensation of
US$500 for the local workers. Instead, the government sent 6000 food
parcels to be distributed among the worst affected workers by the trade
union and the municipality. This measure was followed by violent
demonstrations against the larger firms, the trade union, and the
municipality; but they were ignored by the Multisectoral Group. Thus,
the workers became still further marginalised.
Political performance
Table 1 summarises the changes experienced by the local fishing
industry from its artisanal origins through its development in the
1960s and 1970s to its restructuring since then. Until the late 1950s,
there was a balance between the four angles and decisions were made
at the local level by the fishing community. During the second phase,
the local fishing industry expanded at a dramatic rate but still within
the limits of natural carrying capacity. The expansion of fishing fleet
and land-processing plants played a key role in the local economy and
had a significant impact on the generation of salaried employment and
investments in infrastructure. The expansion and industrialisation of
the activity was promoted by import-substitution policies and
supported by national protectionist policies and subsidies. In this way,
the governance of the fishing industry shifted from the local to the
national sphere and was led by an alliance between capital, workers,
and the state.
Following the trends presented in Figure 3 (p.19), the process of
industrial restructuring transformed the economic, social, physical,
and natural performance of the local fishing industry. This brought
dramatic changes to the city but also to the political alignment of local,
national, and international actors. Local versus national government,
national versus foreign capital, formal versus informal workers, and
land-based factories versus factory ships, were some of the issues of
contention within and between the various parties within the coalition
and its opponents. Initially, the state, firms, and workers were at one in
defence of the local fishing industry but as the conflict evolved the
alliance broke down. This section examines how the claims of local
actors were organised around different interpretations of sustainability.
Hake populations were the only actor without a voice in this conflict.
However, there were public calls to sustain the maritime ecosystems

32 Development and Cities

Table 1: Evolution of the local fishing industry of Mar del Plata, Argentina

Development Economic and Social changes Natural changes Built Political

phases technological (livelihoods) environment changes
changes changes

Up to1950s: Artisanal Italian Low pressure Construction Local social

fishing and immigration on the of the contract
Origins phase
processing natural harbour regulated
techniques resource base Settlement by cultural
of the fishing
Domestic community Local catches of the factors of
market within the fishing the fishing
micro-region community community
organisation of in the
production harbour
Low added

19601970s: Domestic and Expansion of Increasing Capital- Corporatist

Consolidation external local salaried pressure but isation of social
and expansion markets employment below MSY the harbour contract
phase Fordist Incorporation Expansion of Investment National
organisation of women in fishing area in import-
Expansion of production to regional infrastructure substitution
capital invest- Access to social grounds and built policies
ments in networks and environment Unrestricted
offshore fleet financial improve- fishing rights
and land capital (credit ments
processing and savings)

19801990s: Shift to exports Working con- Unsustain- Public and Macro-

Restructuring Joint ventures ditions more able private dis- economic
phase with interna- precarious Generalised investment reforms
tional investors Mass lay-offs over-fishing Privatisation Breakdown
Relocation and Emergence of and rush to of the of corpo-
downsizing of pseudo-co- fish harbour ratist social
firms operatives Increasing Negative contract

Economic Worsening pressure over impacts due With

concentration income and national fish- to externali- drawal of
working ing grounds sation of the national
Vertical decen- environmen- state
tralisation of conditions Depletion of
hake tal costs International
Deterior- versus local
ation of local actors

Outcomes Increasing Emergence of Increasing Uncertainty Privatisa-

uncertainty new disen- natural Projects to tion of the
Disappear- franchised uncertainty improve sea (ITQs)
ance of small workers and efficiency Local multi-
and medium womens and higher sectorial
enterprises organisations productivity coalition
Investments Increasing of harbour Marginal-
frozen due to uncertainty Relocation isation of
economic and Welfarism of slums workers
natural demands

Urban sustainability under threat 33

made by several environmental NGOs who investigated the effects
of over-fishing and informed the general public of the outcomes of
similar international conflicts elsewhere. Cedepesca carried out several
investigations into the illegal practices that, with the consent of national
government, had allowed the expansion of the foreign fleet operating
in the Argentine Sea in the 1990s and provided crucial evidence for the
annulment of the agreement with the EU. NGO demands were made
in defence of the sustainability of the natural resource but also of the
livelihoods of the local fishworkers of Mar del Plata and other fishing
harbours in Patagonia.
Firms focused on defending their economic viability and recognised
this as being intimately linked to the sustainability of the hake
ecosystems. In the words of the manager of one of the oldest and largest
firms in the city:
The crisis of the fishing industry emerged because there are more fishers
than fish. Someone has to leave the sea and it is only fair that the foreign
fleet leaves. We have invested in this city and brought wealth to it for many

When asked about the reorganisation of the labour force into co-
operatives, he explains:
The co-operative system was the only way to reduce fixed costs to survive in
an increasingly competitive system. It is unfortunate but it is the only way
in which we could manage to become more flexible to the expansion and
contraction of the market. The long-range fleet processes everything on
board and lands its catches in foreign harbours, at least we bring work to
the city, even if that is through the co-operatives. (Fieldwork interview,
December 1999)

The social dimension is thus reduced to sustaining a cheap and flexible

labour force. The physical dimension of sustainability is only
expressed in terms of improving the efficiency of the harbour
infrastructure through private investment, but is silent about
environmental degradation, which is seen as another cost that has to
be paid by the city in order to sustain the activity and its revenue.
The local government took as a starting point its role in managing
the physical environment of the harbour and adopted a proactive
approach to sustaining the natural resource base and the local fishing
sector. Although invoking the rhetoric of saving the social capital of the
city, the livelihoods of its workers, and the well-being of their families,

34 Development and Cities

the mayor focused on reorganising the social contract between
enterprises and trade unions at the local level, using the same alliance
that had been created to retain control over the harbour if it was
privatised. Although the local government was in an ideal position to
draw together the different dimensions of the conflict, its demands to
the national government were almost exclusively focused on obtaining
the maximum local benefit in how the quota system was to be allocated.
It responded to social demands with reassuring rhetoric followed by
weak welfarist measures, exemplified in the distribution of food to the
families most critically affected by the closed seasons.
The social measures necessary to provide a meaningful response to
the inevitable decline of the fishing industry were kept off the agenda.
In the words of the mayor:
We need social compensatory measures for the expulsion of workers from
the fishing industry but this falls to the national government. (Fieldwork
interview, December 1999)

Similarly, the connections between the deterioration of environmental

conditions in the harbour and the offloading of costs via the pseudo-
co-operatives were not up for discussion. A senior officer from the
Municipal Environmental Department explains why:
The municipality has inherited a long-term crisis and is doing its best to
cover deficits in areas that lack basic infrastructure, the problem now is
quantity, not quality. The port is deteriorating but at least it has basic
infrastructure. We dont have the human resources to monitor efficiently
who is polluting what and where, and even if we did, we would then face
serious problems in enforcing the existing regulations. In a context of crisis,
we cannot close down factories because they are illegally discharging blood
and fat into the sewage or drainage system or even directly into the sea.
We are forced to be flexible and to a certain point blind to avoid the worst
consequences. (Fieldwork interview, December 1999)

Workers focused on defending their livelihoods and organised their

demands outside the corporatist regime of the trade unions. They did
not simply focus on improved incomes but on a more structural
defence of rights as citizens and workers. Miguel, who worked in the
fishing industry for 20 years, explains the motives behind their
We dont fight for a simple pay-rise. We dont want to bring bread to our
families today and misery tomorrow. We dont want boxes of food.

Urban sustainability under threat 35

We fight to make sure that the fishing grounds are sustained in the long
term and not just for the benefit of a few local and foreign companies.
We fight to abolish the perverse regime of the co-operatives and to regain
our rights. Ironically, we seem to be responsible for polluting the water
we drink, but we are forced to do so on behalf of those who get richer
on the back of our work and suffering. (Fieldwork interview,
December 1999)

This statement shows the position of citizens and workers with regard
to the social, economic, natural, and physical changes brought about
by the restructuring process. A clear connection is established between
these dimensions and also in relationship to how these changes are
Looking at the different claims, it is possible to understand the
rationale behind the coalitions and conflicts at the local level. It is also
possible to see that certain issues, such as the impacts on the
livelihoods of the fishing community and the deterioration of the
physical environment and habitat of the harbour, were marginalised in
the attempts to seek a political response to the conflict. Local actors
were polarised in their demands and were in fact fighting against
external actors in the economicnatural sustainability diagonal. In
doing so, they surrendered to the same logic that they were trying to
fight, the dominance of economic considerations over social, natural,
and physical ones.

Concluding remarks
The state was essential to the development of the local fishing industry,
as it guaranteed a monopoly over access to fish resources and protected
the domestic market through special regimes and subsidies. However,
in the 1970s this model faced a crisis, partly due to the penetration of
Argentinas domestic market by cheaper imports. In addition, there
was increasing competition among countries to attract international
investments on the basis of low salaries and free access to natural
resources. In this context, firms and governments tried to overcome
the rigidities of the Fordist model through decentralising production
processes via subcontracted firms and the offloading of risks.
The social implications of this approach can be seen in the
reorganisation of the relationship between capital and labour under the
faade of the co-operative system. Firms gained flexibility at the
expense of workers stability and worsening environmental conditions.

36 Development and Cities

Furthermore, most workers became disenfranchised and lost their
legal protection and traditional mechanisms for collective action.
The rationale behind this process was based on a static, zero-sum
understanding of the relationship between economic interests and
political institutions, promoted by the Menem administration. The
assumption was that high wages, state-enforced controls over production,
and rigidities in labour deployment constituted significant barriers to
internal capital accumulation.
The process of industrial restructuring not only reinforced social
inequalities but also exacerbated the depletion of the natural resources
upon which the fishing industry as a whole relies. Increasing competition
over the local and regional fisheries resulted in a crisis that became
evident for all to see with the collapse of hake fisheries in the late 1990s.
This turned the conflict into an environmental one, in that all sectors
(state, private industry, and labour) became engaged in the search for
ways to sustain the fishing grounds, although with rather different
interpretations of what needed to be done.
In 1999, the governance of fishing resources became the subject of
intense conflict and uncertainty owing to the depletion of hake,
disagreements about a new fishing rgime, and national elections. The
future of the fishing industry and of the many who depended on it was
trapped into a debate that was determined by sectoral interests in which
the government failed to establish limits to avoid further depletion of
the fishing resources. The introduction of a system based on the
distribution of ITQs brought with it inevitable conflicts. This initiative
opened the debate about the need for a long-term policy framework to
guarantee the sustainable management of the fishing industry.
However, this was not accompanied by measures to reduce or offset the
social and economic impacts of a reduction in fishing, which left the
industry with no certain future. Political decisions were torn between
conserving fishing resources and maintaining policies to favour free
trade, foreign investment, and export-led economic growth.
The fishing industry in Argentina was traditionally ruled by a
coalition between the state, corporate capital, and labour organisations.
Their interests were bound by the pursuit of continuous economic
expansion and based on the assumption that the supply of natural
resources was infinitely elastic. Hence, environmental considerations
were marginal, and were felt only in a weak and centralised fisheries
management rgime, in which the preservation of fishing grounds lost
out to the possibility of more catches. It was only with the advent of the

Urban sustainability under threat 37

hake crisis that most sectors became aware of the effect of over ten years
of uncontrolled expansion. Not only did the traditional alliance between
national capital and the state break down, but also new locally based
coalitions were forged, shifting their claims from economic to environ-
mental and social arguments. The local government of Mar del Plata
took forward these claims at the national level through mechanisms
such as public hearings and demonstrations, with overwhelming
support from civil society. The Multisectoral Group that was formed in
reaction to the crisis succeeded in taking a proactive approach, playing
a key role in drafting new legislation and establishing a decentralised
rgime to discuss the future of the fishing industry. Two significant
changes accompanied this process; first, alliances split between local
and external actors, and, second, there were further splits between the
local government, firms, and workers. The national government was
trapped between these two constituencies and finally forced to
prioritise local claims. But the workers demands were marginalised in
the process and subordinated to the corporatist coalition of local trade
unions, firms, and the local government. It could be argued that the
social and environmental claims put forward by the Multisectoral
Group were something of a tokenistic fight against the increasing
participation of foreign capital in the development of the fishing
Unfortunately, local reactions were too late and too polarised to
offset the consequences of the crisis. The local industry reaffirmed its
exclusive rights over the fisheries at a time when the collapse of hake
had already taken place. With little fish left for the local plants to
process, the industry continues to decline and workers are still being
laid off. The case of Mar del Platas fishing industry could be the tale of
many cities in the South. Increasingly, restructuring processes are
leading to over-exploitation of certain areas and natural resources,
leaving local firms and workers in a highly vulnerable position as they
attempt to cope with the aftermath of environmental, social, and
economic collapse.

This paper draws largely on the restructuring. The case of the fishing
authors doctoral dissertation entitled industry in the city of Mar del Plata,
Environmental conflicts and industrial Argentina.
governance in a time of economic

38 Development and Cities

1 In the 1980s, per capita income international reserves are added,
fell dramatically and per capita the total demand for foreign finance
investment levels fell by 70 per cent. was US$29.5 billion.
Between 1949 and 1974, inflation 4 The contradictory approaches that
averaged an annual 27 per cent. From led the debate on environment,
1975 until 1988, the annual average growth, and development over the
totalled 227 per cent and there had previous decades were not overcome
been two hyper-inflationary surges but rather intensified as SD came
by 1991 (Lpez Murphy 1996). The to the fore. The 1992 UNCED
labour market also worsened conference was a clear example of
significantly. In the 1980s, there was the political tensions that increasingly
a strong trend towards increasing dominate the NorthSouth debate.
unemployment, the growth of micro- Since then, bottom-up initiatives
enterprises and informal activities, in implementing Local Agenda 21
and a general drop in salaries and have spread, while multinational
increased labour instability. A wider corporations have lobbied to add
sector of the population was negatively sustained economic growth as a
affected by adjustment policies, and leading principle to SD. Progress in
by the regressive impact of inflation assessing and implementing the
on income distribution and on the principles of SD is hampered by
countrys economic activity (Beccaria disagreements about the basic terms
and Lpez 1996). Poverty became of reference.
widespread and intense, as many 5 The city of Mar del Plata has a resident
middle- and lower-middle-class population of 600,000, which rises
households experienced a significant to 1,500,000 in the tourist season.
reduction in their incomes. 6 In 1925, the city boasted about 140
2 Between 1980 and 1990, per capita steamships and 80 sailing boats,
income declined 11 per cent, the whose catches reached 12,000 tonnes
minimum salary dropped by 33 per (of the 16,000 tonnes for Argentina
cent, and urban unemployment as a whole). This was entirely for the
increased from 3 per cent to 8 per domestic market and the population
cent. Non-agricultural employment of Buenos Aires City alone consumed
in the informal sector grew from 39.4 half of it (Alvarez and Reynoso 1991).
per cent in 1980 to 49.61 per cent in 7 In the 1960s, the development of
1992, while employment in large the fishing fleet was based on the
private firms decreased from 41.8 per incorporation of offshore vessels built
cent in 1980 to 32.7 per cent in 1992. in the country as well as imported
Incomes in the informal sector from abroad. In 1962, the national
declined by 42 per cent and industrial government supported the construction
salaries declined by 6 per cent of 30 offshore fishing vessels financed
(PREALC 1992). by the Argentinian Industrial Bank.
3 Between 1991 and 1993 the Legal reforms were incorporated to
accumulated deficit in the current subsidise national shipyards and a
account reached US$21.4 billion. If tariff licence was introduced to import
the funds used for accumulating vessels (Alomar 1973).

Urban sustainability under threat 39

8 Under other general economic 11 Records of the Fish Industry Workers
regulations the rights of foreign and Union (Sindicato Obrero de la Industria
national investors merged, allowing del Pescado SOIP) 1995.
freedom to establish anywhere in the 12 In the early 1990s, the legislature
country and to repatriate capital and established that the fishing resources
utilities. The tax regimes for national under Argentinian maritime
and foreign companies were also jurisdiction were to be exclusively
similar, allowing the latter to create exploited by national flagged vessels
subsidiary branches in the country authorised by the competent
or joint ventures with Argentine or authority. Since then, fishing rights
other foreign firms. A new mechanism have been granted on the basis of
established the regime of local individual fishing projects to be
enterprises of foreign capital, by assessed by SAGPyA. The approval of
which foreign firms could operate in each application depended upon the
the country through new companies technical capacity of the applicant
in which they owned over 49 per cent and could only be granted within the
of the capital (Madaria 1999). limits of the maximum sustainable
9 In 1974, local production was shared yield (MSY) defined by INIDEP.
by 30 large enterprises and 103 small Although fishing rights were granted
and medium enterprises, which to individual vessels and firms, they
followed a Fordist production model. could be transferred to other
By 1989, the number of total industrial companies.
units operating in Mar del Plata had 13 The offshore fleet of Mar del Plata
suffered a dramatic reduction as the operates in the fishing grounds north
recession had reduced the domestic of parallel 41S, while the long-range
and external markets. At that time fleets operate both north and south of
many local companies suffered a debt parallel 41.
and liquidity crisis, with huge stocks 14 In addition to the agreement with the
of inventory which they could not EU, several resolutions from SAGPyA
sell. This crisis was associated with the allowed national ship-owners to hire
removal of national protection tariffs foreign vessels for the fishing of squid
that enhanced the competitiveness over a period of three years. Out of the
of foreign products and caused a rise nearly 200,000 tonnes of squid
in imports. The fishing industry catches in 1995, half corresponded
was the only industrial sector that to the 71 foreign vessels incorporated
survived this crisis without a massive under this provision. The accidental
reduction in the number of firms or by-catch of hake by these vessels also
employees. contributed to the increasing pressure
10 Since the 1970s, women have had a on the species (Godelman et al. 1999).
significant role in the local fishing 15 The settlements on private land alone
industry, particularly in processing account for 3209 inhabitants
activities such as canning and filleting. (Fernndez 1996).
In 1996, over one third of the total 16 Fishing quotas were to be granted
number of workers in industry were according to five criteria: the average
women but they represented only 20 catch of each enterprise between 1989
per cent of the workers organised in and 1996, the number of personnel
co-operatives (INIDEP 1998). employed, the investment already

40 Development and Cities

made, the volume of production, and References
the record of previous offences
committed by each company. The Allen, Adriana (1999) Sustentabilidad
Law also established the right of the productiva: ajuste poltico-econmico
CFP to reserve and grant part of estructural y efectos ambientales.
the annual quota to cases of El caso de la industria pesquera
social interest, as a mechanism to marplatense, in Fernndez et al. (eds)
ameliorate the socially regressive Territorio, Sociedad y Desarrollo
impact of the system on the most Sustentable. Estudios de Sustentabilidad
vulnerable groups. Urbana, Buenos Aires: Editorial Espacio
17 Mara, a 40-year-old woman with two Alomar, J. (1973) El Crdito para Inversiones
sons, who worked with her husband Privadas. La Pesca Comercial en
in the fishing industry for 17 years, Argentina, Buenos Aires: Fundacin
explains the situation affecting de Estudios Martimos
thousands of local workers: Alvarez, Adriana and Daniel Reynoso
(1991) Las actividades econmicas,
We were not rich but nor were we in Alvarez et al. (eds) Mar del Plata:
poor. We worked hard but the effort Una Historia Urbana, Mar del Plata:
was worth it. Over the years, we Fundacin Banco de Boston
managed to build our own house and Beccaria, Lus and Nestor Lpez (eds)
to send the kids to school. When the (1996) Sin Trabajo. Las Caractersticas
fishing seasons were bad, it was easy del Desempleo y sus Efectos en la
to obtain credit, nobody denied it to Sociedad Argentina, Buenos Aires:
a worker from the fishing industry, UNICEF/LOSADA
now they laugh at youI leave the Burgess, Rod, Marisa Carmona, and Theo
house at 4 am at that time you can Kolstee (eds) (1997) The Challenge of
see hundreds of men and women Sustainable Cities. Neo-liberalism and
walking around the port and checking Urban Strategies in Developing
one co-operative after another to see if Countries, London: Zed Books
there is any work. We have to walk Fernndez, Roberto (ed.) (1996) Habitat
because we cannot afford the cost of Mar del Plata. Problemtica de
bus fares any more. Sometimes we Vivienda, Tierra y Desarrollo Urbano
dont get a table [to fillet] in the whole de Mar del Plata. Diagnstico y
week, if we are lucky we work one or Propuestas, Mar del Plata: Programa
two days per week the rest of the ARRAIGO/Universidad Nacional de
time we just walk. My husband Mar del Plata
stopped seeking work because he is 50 Gennero de Rearte, Ana (1996)
and the plants only want young Dinmica del Crecimiento de la
people. He does bits and pieces in Industria Local, unpublished report,
construction, but with the fishing Mar del Plata: Facultad de Ciencias
industry in crisis there is not much Econmicas y Sociales, Universidad
work in the city. (Fieldwork Nacional de Mar del Plata
interview, December 1999) Godelman, Ernesto, Claudia Bruno,
Eduardo Tamargo, Gonzalo Pidal and
Fabin Gonzles (1999) La poltica
de subsidios pesqueros de la Unin
Europea, Comunidad Pesquera,

Urban sustainability under threat 41

Gould, Kenneth, Allan Scnaiberg, and Madaria, Edgardo (ed.) (1999) El Sector
Adam Weinberg (1996) Local Pesquero Argentino, unpublished
Environmental Struggles: Citizen report, Buenos Aires: Escuela de
Activism in the Treadmill of Production, Ciencias Politicas, UCA
Cambridge: Cambridge University Municipalidad de General Pueyrredon
Press (MGP) (1997) Mar del Plata en Cifras,
Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Mar del Plata: MGP
para el Desarrollo Pesquero (INIDEP) Pagani, Andrea and Mara Isabel Bertolotti
(1998) Resultados Preliminares del (1991) La actividad industrial pesquera:
Censo Nacional Industrial Pesquero anlisis intercensal 19821987.
1996, unpublished report, Mar del Capacidades de produccin por
Plata: INIDEP regiones y evolucin de la
Lipietz, Alan (1992) Towards a New incorporacin tecnolgica, in
Economic Order: Post-Fordism, Ecology Proceedings del V Simposio Cientfico de
and Democracy, Oxford: Oxford la Comisin Tcnica Mixta del Frente
University Press Martimo, Montevideo (Uruguay),
Lpez Murphy, Ral (1996) The 78 December 1989, Vol. 9
feasibility of sustaining economic Pirez, Pedro (1995) Actores Sociales y
reform in Argentina 19952000, Gestin de la Ciudad, Ciudades
paper presented at ILAS conference special issue, OctoberDecember,
Argentina Towards the 21st Century: Mexico DF: RNIU
Challenges Facing the Second PREALC (1992) Empleo y Transformacin
Menem Administration, Institute of Productiva, Working Paper No. 369,
Latin American Studies, London, Santiago de Chile: OIT-PREALC
12 February

42 Development and Cities

Institutional innovations for
urban infrastructural
development: the Indian scenario
Amitabh Kundu

The processes of structural adjustment and decentralised governance

in India are expected to generate rapid industrial and infrastructural
development. Although the negative impacts of this policy package,
launched in the early 1990s, are noticeable in the slowing of public
investment and in reduced access to basic amenities for large sections
of the population, its proponents believe that these are transitory. They
believe that efficient and accountable governance will be the driving
force behind the provision of more and better economic infrastructure
and basic amenities. The public sector organisations that failed to
provide these services in a cost-effective manner have instead blocked
enormous capital resources of the state without yielding adequate
returns. These, along with other parastatal agencies such as the
Development Authorities, were created in the post-Independence
period. They had taken over many of the functions of local bodies,
and must, therefore, be dismantled.
The government and the Reserve Bank of India have already
imposed a degree of financial discipline on these agencies, forcing
them to generate resources internally, borrow at high interest rates
from development-cum-banking institutions, or raise funds in the
capital markets. This has restricted the scope, if not the volume, of their
activities. At the same time, financial sector reforms that loosen the
directed credit system have brought about a decline in mandatory
investments in social infrastructure by financial institutions. Further,
many of the infrastructural services are gradually being transferred to
private agencies or managed on commercial lines. A more complete
remedial package is being urged on India by the World Bank. It
includes reducing public sector intervention, ensuring appropriate
prices for infrastructure and urban amenities by eliminating or
reducing subsidies, developing capital markets for resource mobilisation,
facilitating private and joint sector projects, simplifying legislative

processes to promote optimal land use and location of economic
activities, and so on (World Bank 1995, 1998; Expert Group on
Commercialisation of Infrastructure 1996). Solutions are also being
found in terms of transparent management of urban projects and
innovative institutional arrangements.
With the passage of the 74th Amendment to the Indian Constitution
(Ministry of Urban Development 1992) and corresponding legislation,
amendments, ordinances, etc. at the state level, decentralisation has
become the keyword in governance. People at municipal, district, and
metropolitan region level should now be able to formulate programmes
and schemes for meeting their own developmental and infrastructural
needs, something that is impossible in a centralised regime. This,
along with opening up of the capital markets, is expected to promote
economic activity and better provision of basic services in urban
The basis for this optimism, however, has not been examined
empirically. This paper seeks to analyse initiatives that substantially
affect the functioning of urban local bodies. It will first examine the
efficacy and implications of the new system of maintaining municipal
budgets in the context of devolving funds from state-level agencies.1
This is followed by a discussion of the problems and possibilities of
rating credit-worthiness of local bodies so that they may tap resources
for investment in infrastructure, and by an examination of the
implications of the Amendment Act for enabling the municipal bodies
to undertake responsibility for development planning. The following
section discusses the recent initiatives by these bodies to assign
contracts to private agencies for the provision of basic services. An
explanation for the limited success of the much-heralded slum
networking projects is followed by an analysis of innovative systems
adopted at the local level for mobilising resources from capital markets
and institutional sources as well as the conditionalities imposed by
lending agencies and financial intermediaries. The key question
throughout is whether the proposed modifications will help to de-
bureaucratise the local bodies, inject efficiency into their functioning,
and improve accessibility of poor people to infrastructure and basic
amenities. The final section summarises the results and conclusions,
and reviews the validity of the development perspective behind the
proposed solutions.

44 Development and Cities

The new system of maintaining municipal budgets
and devolution of state funds based on performance
Until recently, state governments supported local bodies in their
budgetary expenditures through a gap-filling approach. This has been
criticised for making the local bodies lax in resource mobilisation, tax
collection, and efficiency, and in the era of globalisation, this policy is
being discarded. The new approach is to promote infrastructural and
industrial investment in cities and towns that can cover its own costs.
The task for the national government is to create an institutional and
legal structure that enables the most deserving cities to access
resources. Methodologies have been developed to determine worthiness
based on objective measures of local government performance, not
merely when local bodies are seeking resources in terms of loans from
national and international organisations or from bond offerings but
also via transfers from the State Finance Commissions.
Unfortunately, there are serious conceptual and operational problems
in establishing performance indicators using the budgetary data of
municipal bodies and other local agencies. Most local bodies use a cash-
flow-based single-entry accounting system. They are neither required
to adhere to agreed accounting standards nor to be externally audited.2
Further, as the concepts and categories used in the budgets and their
coverage vary widely, identical ratios obtained for different organisations
do not imply the same situation. Comparison of the indicators between
municipalities would not, therefore, make much sense unless these
concepts were standardised.
This lack of comparability can be found across several of the most
important categories of municipal accounts, including capital earnings
and expenditures (Narayanan 2000), current earnings and expenditures
(NIPFP 1995), and earnings from assets. The Municipal Corporation
of Delhi admits for 1996 that since compilation of arrears of property
tax is a time-consuming process, exact figures can not be indicated
(MCD 1997).
What is urgently required, therefore, is that the definitions and
coverage of the concepts be standardised, and that unambiguous
indicators be established for the purpose of temporal and cross-sectoral
comparison. However, the only clear-cut prescription to local bodies to
assist them in garnering support from a large number of financial
agencies has been to segregate the earnings and expenditure for
different sectors and maintain separate accounts. This is often put

Institutional innovations for urban infrastructural development 45

forward as a prerequisite for cities wanting to mobilise funds from
international sources or capital markets (domestic or international).
The Indo-US Financial Institutions Reform and Expansion (FIRE)
Project in India, for example, proposes that the Pune Municipal
Corporation establish separate accounts not merely for capital and
current expenditures but also for different sets of sectors (Mehta and
Satyanarayana 1996). With accounts segregated this way, selected
sectors may be pooled to create cost centres. Proponents of such
measures would then impose or enhance user charges and restrict
intersectoral transfers, thus making certain economically viable sectors
independent of the general municipal budget. It is argued that this
would go a long way towards attracting capital investments.
The Mumbai Municipal Corporation agreed to such an arrangement
as a precondition for obtaining a World Bank loan to improve its water
supply and sewerage facilities. It now maintains accounts for these
sectors on an accrual basis while its other budgets are maintained
separately. There are cases where receiving a small loan from an
international or national agency has constrained city governments
from cross-subsidising economically unattractive sectors or areas.

Credit rating of local bodies for market borrowing:

the need for a development perspective
One significant development in the context of investment in infra-
structure and amenities in India is the emergence of credit-rating
institutions. As the financial markets become global and competitive
and the borrowers base more diversified, investors and regulators
increasingly turn to credit-rating institutions when making their
decisions. The rating of the debt instruments of corporate bodies and
municipal enterprises is currently being carried out by institutions like
the Information and Credit Rating Agency of India (ICRA), Credit
Analysis and Research (CARE), and Credit Rating Information Services
of India Limited (CRISIL). By the end of 1999, 20 cities and urban
authorities had already been rated by these agencies and the cases of
another 15 were being processed.
CRISIL, which has received technical support from USAID under
the Indo-US FIRE (D) project for the development of methodology for
credit rating, first assesses the feasibility of the proposed project(s).
It then rates the debt instruments on the basis of historical trends and
projections of the borrowers (a) current earnings and expenditures,
(b) debts and savings profile, and (c) economic and social profile of

46 Development and Cities

the area governed by the entity.
Unfortunately, the indicators selected for these three dimensions
and the weights assigned to them have neither been precisely defined
nor made adequately transparent Indeed, difficulties arise in applying
indicators to these dimensions, as they are subject to manipulation
in budget or other policy documents by urban local bodies (ULBs)
aspiring to raise resources from the capital market. Even the quantitative
indicators considered by CRISIL when rating the urban local bodies
e.g. tax and non-tax receipts as percentages of total revenue, grants
from state governments as percentage of revenues, total revenue deficit
and overall deficit, debt-service coverage ratio, expenditure on core
services and on wages and salaries as a percentage of total expenditure
have elements of subjectivity because budgetary information is
compiled differently by different municipalities (Kundu et al. 1999).
More important than the data problem is the choice of development
perspective. Any rating agency would have problems in deciding
whether to go by financial performance indicators like total revenue or
tax revenue (in per capita terms) or to build appropriate indicators to
reflect medium- or long-term efficiency of management and the
economic strength of the service area. One can possibly justify the former
on the grounds that to service debts, what is needed is high income,
irrespective of its source or managerial efficiency. However, if the
agency wants to support projects that may have debt repayment
problems in the short run but are likely to succeed over time, it would
consider the level of managerial efficiency, structure of governance, or
the long-term economic base. In such cases, the agency would use a
different set of indicators. These might pertain to provisions in state
legislation regarding decentralisation, stability of the government in
the city and the state, per capita income of the population, level of
industrial and commercial activity etc., all of which have a direct
bearing on the prospect of increasing tax and non-tax earnings of the
municipal body in the long run.
A review of the analyses done by CRISIL (e.g. CRISIL 1996)
suggests that it has indeed not based its rating on a few quantitative
indicators alone but on a host of other factors, including those
pertaining to policy perspectives at the city and state level that are not
easily measurable. The only problem here is that it has not specified all
the factors or the procedures by which these qualitative dimensions
enter the credit-rating framework and are aggregated with the
quantitative dimensions.

Institutional innovations for urban infrastructural development 47

Besides providing initial bond rating, the rating agencies also
monitor the capacity of the issuer to make timely payments of principal
and interest, throughout the term of the bond, and may upgrade or
downgrade the rating on this basis. The continued monitoring of ULBs
by a rating agency, which has been considered crucial for the effective
operation of the secondary bond market, besides being a financial
burden, may impose restrictions on the ULBs functioning, particularly
in undertaking activities to meet social obligations that do not have
immediate financial return.3

Assigning planning responsibilities to local bodies

The 74th Constitutional Amendment has been hailed in India as a
landmark in transferring powers to and creating an enabling
environment for local bodies to undertake planning and development
responsibility. The problem is that the local bodies are simply not yet
equipped to take up such responsibilities, especially for capital projects
(Joshi 1996). Indeed, considerable expertise is required to identify the
infrastructural and industrial projects appropriate for the growth of a
city or town, assess their environmental implications, and mobilise
resources for them. Given their difficult financial situation, it is
unlikely that these bodies will be able to strengthen their planning
departments by recruiting technical and professional personnel in
the immediate future. State government departments face similar
constraints and are unlikely to be able to provide the technical
assistance needed.
Instead, local bodies are resorting to the financial intermediaries
and credit-rating agencies that have recently emerged with assistance
from certain international organisations, as mentioned above. The
principal concerns of these agencies and also of the companies likely
to provide the finance are reflected in the preparation of the project.
These include commitments by the borrowing agency to ensure cost
recovery, legal and administrative restructuring for attracting private
participation, etc.. Understandably, the investments which are clearly
linked to enhanced revenues, are preferred (Indo-US FIRE Project
1998a). The criteria proposed by the agencies thus impose financial
perspectives and discipline on the local bodies that may not promote
integrated development of the city or regional economy.
Assigning the responsibility of planning to local bodies does not
automatically enable them to prepare projects based on a development
perspective for the town or region. Preparing a long-term integrated

48 Development and Cities

plan to answer the needs and aspirations of local people in different
social and income brackets and then breaking it down to a set of
meaningful projects, is a different exercise from that of identifying
projects with high credit rating that would attract corporate investment.
In an era when obtaining funds for investment from the private sector
or capital markets has become the critical factor, it is not surprising that
the exercise of preparing master plans has been thoroughly discredited
(Joshi 1996).
Given this emerging scenario, the option of going for project
preparation in formal or informal consultation with interested companies
or the stakeholders, and with the financial institutions acting as
intermediaries, seems to be an easy way out. Indeed, local governments
in large cities have found this hard to resist.

Management contracts for services to be provided by

private agencies
Deficiencies in infrastructure and basic amenities in India have
reached alarming proportions with the decline in investment and
financial support from the central and state governments to local
bodies and the limited capacity of the latter to replace them with
resources of their own (see Chakrabarti in this volume). This is forcing
ULBs to work out alternative institutional arrangements to bridge the
gap. Private sector participation in management of municipal services
is one such arrangement. Different forms of participation have been
designed with varying levels of responsibility and cost sharing between
private and public agencies. The most common form is contracting out
management of one or a set of services by the municipal bodies to
private companies. This is expected to reduce substantially the costs
incurred by local authorities and, at the same time, open up business
opportunities for the private sector. A crucial concern for government
is then to ensure that subcontracting does not lead to the dilution of
social responsibility and exclusion of poor people and vulnerable
sections from the formal delivery system.
This requires new regulatory and supervisory arrangements for
monitoring and enforcing agreements with private or joint-sector
companies. Establishing and effectively implementing these is no
small challenge, as it is well known that, under the old system of state
control, public agencies failed to meet a broad range of social objectives,
including catering to the needs of poor people. Many of the same state
agencies are now being called upon to design and implement

Institutional innovations for urban infrastructural development 49

regulatory controls in a liberalised rgime in which resources and
responsibilities are more widely dispersed and less subject to direct
control than before. Along with many other developing countries, India
is receiving assistance from international agencies to lay a foundation
for participatory management practices, including, for example, drawing
up terms and conditions of contracts, increasing community participation
in management, facilitating contacts with prospective enterprise
partners and, often, negotiating contracts on behalf of local bodies.
Tables 1 and 2 list some of the cities that have entered into management
contracts for provision of basic services. While not exhaustive, these
illustrate the different sectors and management forms involving the
private agencies that have gained currency in the past decade. The
relatively recent nature of this phenomenon prevents systematic
assessment of the costs and benefits of this form of privatisation.
Reliable data on revenue and expenditure of local bodies before and
after the subcontracting arrangement are not yet available. The same
applies to the number of companies engaged in the provision of
services and their profit levels. Even if such data were available, the
ability of local bodies to reduce their financial burden through
privatisation of services is in itself no indication of success of the
arrangement. Such a judgement is possible only after the quality of the
services and, more importantly, the extent to which these reach the
urban poor, are known. No systematic data are available yet which cover
these aspects at national, state, or local level. These would have to be
obtained through field surveys at the micro level, and it gives cause for
concern that such studies have yet to be conducted.
Existing studies on contractual agreements, progress reports, and
other official documents reveal that there have been problems even at
the level of the working arrangements and norms for day-to-day
functioning. This is understandable because India does not have much
experience in publicprivate partnerships at the municipal and sub-
municipal levels. Many arrangements fell into serious difficulties after
the formal launch of the projects. In Vadodara, for example, the
arrangement with a private company to make fuel pellets from waste
turned out to be uneconomic for the company because the waste it
purchased from the municipal corporation had to be collected from
sites that were too geographically dispersed. When the two parties
could not agree on an alternative collection scheme, the company
closed the operation. Similar difficulties have been encountered

50 Development and Cities

Table 1: Management contracts for services in Indian cities in 1993

Services/tasks Cities
Sanitation and public health:
Conservancy; drain cleaning; Guwahati, Banglore, Jodhpur,
sanitation; maintenance of sewage Navi Mumbai, Ludhiana
treatment plant
Construction and maintenance of Faridabad, Delhi, Hubli-Dharwad,
toilets Aurangabad, Kalyan, Jaipur, Cochi

Solid waste management:

Garbage collection and disposal; Guwahati, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Baroda,
street cleaning Banglore, Cochi, Mumbai, Pune,
Jalandhar, Amtritsar, Ludhiana, Jaipur
Compost plant; solid waste conversion Vadodara, Kalyan

Roads and streets:

Road construction Ahmedabad, Cochi
Road maintenance Banglore, Cochi, Jaipur
Street lighting Ranchi, Rajkot, Faridabad, Jodhpur,
Navi Mumbai

Water supply:
Maintenance of water supply system Navi Mumbai

Tax collection etc.:

Collection of entry tax; other local Guwahati, Navi Mumbai
taxes and charges
Parking lots and collection of charges Guwahati, Pune

Gardens and parks etc.:

Development and maintenance of Rajkot, Baroda, Bombay, Faridabad,
garden parks, playgrounds, sports Hubli-Dharwad, Banglore, Cochin,
centres, swimming pools, planetaria, Ranchi, Aurangabad, Navi Mumbai,
traffic islands Kalyan, Pune, Amritsar, Ludhiana,
Jalandhar, Jaipur

Social forestry, tree planting: Baroda, Rajkot

Bus stations and shelters Ranchi, Cochi
Ward security Ahmedabad, Rajkot
Market development Ahmedabad, Kalyan
Maintenance of vehicles Rajkot
Land development Faridabad
Provision of libraries etc. Faridabad
Milk market Hubli-Dharwad

Source: Meera Mehta (1993)

Institutional innovations for urban infrastructural development 51

Table 2: Partnership in urban services and infrastructure: selected examples

City Service/facility Form of partnership

Nasik Octroi post Auction

Panvel By-pass Turnkey

Pune Solid waste BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer)

(resource recovery)

Jaisingpur By-pass Franchise

Baroda Solid waste BOT (co-operative society)

Chennai Solid waste NGO industry (Exnora)

Chennai Waste water recycling Private company

Tiruppur Water supply Private company

Hyderabad Light rail transit system Joint stock company

Vishakhapatnam Water supply Large private financing

Indore (Rau) Link road (Rau Pittampura) BOT

Delhi-Noida Link bridge transport BOT (privatisation of routes)

Source: NIUA (1997)

Solid waste management is one service where local bodies have

shown great interest in involving the private sector. The method of
collection often involves participation of citizens groups and NGOs.
Indeed, success stories from a number of cities suggest that many
urban residents are willing to invest time and money in an improved
system of garbage disposal. Evidence to date does not indicate, however,
that the provision of basic amenities to poor areas or households
increases after a private company assumes the responsibility. And,
indeed, institutional and legal structures obliging companies to
maintain the same level of commitment to poor people as that offered
by municipal bodies have yet to be proposed or established.
Evidence from several states suggests that the progressive transfer
of responsibility from state governments to the unprepared ULBs
for infrastructure development and other capital projects such as
for sewerage and garbage disposal, is being passed on quickly to
enterprises through contractual agreements. Even in cities where
innovative projects have been developed in these areas (for example

52 Development and Cities

the Slum Networking Project in Indore, described below), solid waste
disposal coverage is less than 50 per cent. In situations such as these,
excluded groups are unable to raise their voices or complain to the
municipal body, as the latter tell them to take their complaints
directly to the service provider. This has led to the fragmentation of
responsibility and of the service-delivery system, with marginalised
areas and people remaining under-serviced or unserviced. As a
consequence, the risk of periodic epidemics touches the entire urban
It is difficult to assess the improvement or deterioration in the
quality of the services in cities where subcontracting arrangements are
in force. Nonetheless, the declining numbers of sanitation workers
employed by the contracted agency should cast doubt on claims to
improve services. Pre-subcontracting levels were already below the
norms recommended by the Committee on Solid Waste. A survey
conducted by National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA 1997)
estimates the shortfall to be as high as 50 per cent. Yet, in most cases,
after the subcontracting arrangement was launched levels fell still
further. In a few cities, such as Pune, the number of sanitation workers
is at 25 per cent of the recommended level. Even if residents assume
some of this burden, it is clear that assessing and controlling the
standards of services provided by these agencies would be extremely
difficult unless the local community is actively engaged in the
implementation process and unless strict norms of functioning evolve
over time.

Involving community in infrastructure development

and provision of services
Community participation gained currency as a component of
development strategies in the 1980s as a consequence of the failure of
public agencies to reverse worsening trends in the provision of basic
amenities. It was argued that the community could help not only in
social mobilisation but also in raising the financial resources that the
local authorities needed badly. In many cases, it became possible to
reduce project costs substantially if the prospective beneficiaries
provided their labour free or at below market wage rates. Further, the
pressure of peer groups under participatory arrangements resulted in
better monitoring, more productive engagement of the beneficiaries in
the project, and better recovery of development loans to individuals.

Institutional innovations for urban infrastructural development 53

Today, community participation in urban development projects can
be seen at different levels and in different forms. One of the most
innovative forms of participation is occurring in the neighbourhood
and slum improvement schemes launched by local bodies. These are
being carried out by networks of community groups, enterprises, and
city agencies with little financial support from the state or central
government. Residents in the project area have been involved in all
stages of the project, including monitoring and maintaining the
The Slum Networking Project (SNP) of Indore (19901997) is the
most celebrated of these.4 It involves provision of individual water taps
and toilets connected to a sewage network, an integrated drainage
and sanitation system, soft landscaping, and mobilisation of the
community for monitoring the project. The underlying model recognises
that participation does not mean leaving poor people to design and
implement the project by themselves or simply to involve them in some
mechanism of access to credit and loan recovery. The basic objective in
a networking project is to make high-quality techno-engineering
expertise available to the people, within the framework of community
participation, so that slums are upgraded in a manner that integrates
both the residents and their community into the fabric of city life
(Municipal Corporation of Ahmedabad 1998).
Although SNP Indore involved high-level engineering innovations,
it was a low-cost solution: the sewer lines used the natural drainage
system, the roads were designed for draining storm water, and both the
sewer lines and roads were built at ground level. This substantially
reduced the capital expenditure. More importantly, linking the slum
sub-system with the city network promised to improve the quality of
water around the city.
The SNPs in Indian cities have earned unprecedented acclaim
nationally and are often internationally cited as examples of best
practice. Yet, like many highly publicised cases of best practice, the
reality on the ground is not always what it seems. Claims to dramatic
transformation of the slums through SNP remain to be demonstrated
empirically. Moreover, the projects have yet to prove replicable on a
large scale and therefore cannot be presented as an alternative to
existing slum improvement strategies in the country.
Many of the assumptions of the model have not been met on the
ground, thus limiting the projects achievements. The most important
premise for the success of the underground sewerage system that all

54 Development and Cities

households would take individual connections for water supply and
sewage disposal is far from reality. The 1997 Impact Assessment
Survey found that only about 34 per cent of the households had taken
toilet connections, while for water connections the figure was as low as
16 per cent. Many could not afford the connection, as they had neither
the resources nor any access to credit and banks would not extend loans
to households not possessing legal title to their land. Further, the
quality of water was poor, with one third of households with tap
connections reporting contamination, and two thirds reporting the
pressure of the water supply to be inadequate.
In the absence of sewer connections, a large number of households
discharged sullage on to the roads. Indeed, roads were supposed to act
as drains, but only for storm water. Open disposal of sullage thus
created extremely unhygienic conditions, posing health hazards to the
entire community. Also, the premise that the city had sufficient water
supplies to operate a city-wide underground sewerage system turned
out to be false (Verma 2000). Techno-economic surveys revealed that
the sewerage system in the city became choked for lack of water.
Understandably, no improvement could come through the water quality
of local rivers and lakes.
The strongest criticism of the Indore project is the neglect of
community development (CD) activities (Verma 2000). No serious
effort was made to create community-level organisations and involve
them in the preparation of the plan and its implementation. Towards
the end of the project, the CD staff had lost their credibility as the
drainage system became choked and they could offer no solution.
Instead, preoccupied with their own job security and post-project
postings following the termination of the project, they ignored peoples
Another celebrated case of SNP, Parivartan (Change Project), is
underway in Ahmedabad. It comprises similar objectives and tools of
intervention to that of Indores SNP, but has been designed to avoid the
major problems encountered there. Perhaps the most innovative
aspect of the project is its intended reliance entirely on local financing,
i.e. from residents, NGOs, Ahmedabad municipal corporation (AMC),
and the private sector. To keep down costs and ensure proper functioning
of the sewer, water and toilet connections have been made obligatory.
Community development activities receive high priority, with NGO
partners being involved right from the beginning. To ensure maintenance
of the sewerage system, a revolving fund has been established with a

Institutional innovations for urban infrastructural development 55

contribution of 100 rupees from each household. The difficulty of
obtaining credit for slum households has been largely solved by the
involvement of the SEWA (Self Employed Womens Association) Bank
as a project partner (Dutta 2000).
The most disturbing aspect of the Indore SNP was that many of the
slum residents were evicted within a few years of the upgrading.
To allay such concerns, AMC gave assurance to slum-dwellers right
from the outset that they would not be evicted for at least ten years.
Similar assurances have come from private owners of the plots and
slum areas that are to be improved in the second phase. The plot-
owners, in turn, have been assured that their land ownership rights
would not be prejudiced as a consequence of the programme.
Despite all the safeguards, Parivartan is encountering serious
difficulties. Differences of opinion among the partners emerged even
in the pilot phase. Of the original four slums scheduled for upgrading,
three have not gone ahead because of the reluctance of their
communities to raise or contribute the required resources. Conflicts
developed between the engineering wing of AMC and Arvind Mills, the
private company involved in the construction component of the
project, arising from differences in work culture and decision-making
procedures.5 This led to Arvind Mills withdrawing from the project
after the pilot phase. More disturbing, no other private company has
come forward subsequently to participate in the project and provide
financial support.
Today the project is being implemented in a selective and less
ambitious manner by the corporation, a few community groups, and
NGOs. Consequently, the concept of integrating all the slums into the
basic fabric of city life is now something of a pipe dream. AMC is hard-
pressed for resources and is trying to raise funds from several central
and state government schemes. If successful, AMC may be able to carry
the work forward, but at the cost of going against the fundamentals of
the SNP project: to make urban development self-financing.

Arrangements for raising resources from capital

market and financial institutions
The ongoing process of globalisation has serious implications for most
local bodies and urban development authorities making major invest-
ments in infrastructure in India. By virtue of a host of domestic factors
the weak economic position of these bodies, uncertainties in the
preparation and supervision of municipal budgets, and the lack of

56 Development and Cities

interest by the private corporate sector in partnership financing urban
local bodies are compelled to seek innovative financing methods for
their projects. More and more, the kind of financing that is available
comes from international lenders or domestic institutions whose first
responsibility is to assure prompt repayment at adequate rates of
return. The pursuit of such goals is bringing about a sea change in
modalities of financing by forcing the conditions for securing loans. It
is, in fact, altering the content and objectives of the projects themselves.
In the USA and Europe, revenue bonds have been the main source
of capital financing for ULBs. Under this system, funds for repayment
are generated through the projects themselves, which are launched
using the debt amount. This option is not available in India since urban
development projects generally do not yield the required rate of return.
Other forms of borrowing, such as general obligation bonds that
commit the total budget of the local bodies, would not be of much help
as many of these have significant budgetary deficits. Structured debt
obligations (SDOs), through which bonds are issued on the condition
that the borrowing agency pledges or escrows (places in trust as a
deposit or security) certain buoyant sources of revenue like octroi
(a duty levied on certain goods entering the city), property tax, etc. for
debt servicing, could be more feasible. By such means, the repayment
obligations are given priority and kept independent of the overall
financial position of the borrowing agency. SDOs are designed in such
a manner that loans are repaid through the committed revenue
sources, irrespective of the overall budget, which may be in deficit.
Unfortunately, the level of financing needed to fill the enormous deficit
in infrastructure exceeds the escrow capacity of most local bodies to
meet the debt-service obligations. As a consequence, they are often
required to pledge other sources of revenue and grants as well, which
is done in the case of general obligation bonds. Thus, the bondholders
enjoy the security of certain dedicated revenue streams and, in addition,
are given the faith and credit pledge of the city, thereby making the
issue an SDO as well as a general obligation bond, as noted in the case
of Ahmedabad discussed above.
Issuing authorities are often required to adhere to certain additional
conditionalities, such as maintaining an average debt-service to credit
ratio, pledging municipal assets with a certain asset coverage ratio,
creating a sinking fund, etc., particularly if they are seeking a high
credit rating. In case of possible changes in macro policies that may
affect the budgetary position of the concerned authority (such as the

Institutional innovations for urban infrastructural development 57

abolition of octroi), assurances of compensatory payment by state or
central government have been stipulated. These are all precautionary
measures to protect the interests of the investors.
This has not, however, discouraged a large number of ULBs from
attempting to improve their credit rating, for the purpose of raising
funds from the capital market. Achieving a budget surplus by cutting
down, among other things, unremunerative social expenditures is
one of the preferred paths to this objective. However, as a consequence
of stiff competition among the ULBs on one hand, and political and
civil pressure to restore the level of social expenditure on the other,
many ULBs are defaulting.
Organisations that mobilise resources by offering bonds or securities
for sale to the public are also required to file a draft prospectus with the
Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). As many more ULBs
seek to mobilise funds through public placement of the securities,
SEBI approval will become common in the future. Such approval often
involves additional conditionalities as well as modifications to the
project structure and financing system.
Indeed, the general trend for protecting investors (purchasers of
securities or bonds issued by ULBs and urban authorities) is in the
direction of Europe and North America. Loans taken by subsidiary
enterprises (of the ULBs) are to be clearly recorded, reported publicly,
reduced to a minimum, or avoided altogether so that the contingent
liability does not go beyond the repayment capacity. The role of trustees,
whose responsibility it is to monitor ULBs debt servicing and ensure
that the borrowing agency does not have access to the pledged resources
(both for the funds raised by it or by its subsidiary enterprises, until the
loan is repaid), is to be reformed as well. This is to make trustees
personally accountable to the bondholders, to reduce their wide
discretionary powers to act in the larger social or community interest,
and to insulate the trustees, as much as possible, from political
influence. It is further proposed that the ULBs should rank their debt
instruments in terms of priority so that the general public knows which
obligation will have priority in repayment, in case of exigencies. All
these arrangements would impose constraints in various ways on the
normal functioning of ULBs.
Finally, attempts are being made to design a comprehensive debt
limitation policy at the state level. This would ensure compliance of
ULBs to certain norms and set a ceiling on their borrowing capacity,
based on their economic strength and repayment capacity. This system

58 Development and Cities

would speed approvals by removing the requirement to seek approval
from the state government in every case. Market borrowing on the
part of local authorities can, thus, be made independent of the state
government. It is proposed that a market-linked agency like SEBI can
take up the regulatory role instead.
International agencies operating in the urban sector have stressed
the need to keep the issuance of bonds outside the regulatory framework
of government and have pleaded for the development of an independent
capital market. The Indian experience in this regard, however, has not
been very encouraging. The few cities that were able to float bonds had
to depend ultimately either on the guarantee from the state government
or on its approval.
A major impact of making the capital market for the development
of urban infrastructure independent of government would be the
accentuation of inequality across regions as well as in relation to the
size of urban centres. Understandably, under the new policy, a few large
cities with a growing economy and buoyant revenue sources, would be
able to access the market, by-passing the bureaucratic hassle of going
through the government. With the discontinuance of the practice of
state guarantee, smaller towns, however, would be in no position to
mobilise resources. Consequently, the greater dependence on capital
markets in future would increase disparity between cities and towns in
terms of per capita expenditure and, consequently, the level of
amenities (Kundu et al. 1999).
Provisions under the Income Tax Act that exempt the income
received from bonds issued to finance infrastructure from tax liability
may further enhance these disparities. Similarly, under section 88 of
the Act, a certain percentage of investment on qualified infrastructure
does not come under income tax. These and other exemptions for
infrastructure may give a boost to investment in municipal facilities
like water-supply and sanitation systems. But better-off states and cities
are likely to benefit most from such concessions. Given the bias
towards investment in a select group of large cities, small towns in
disadvantaged areas are unlikely to receive investment unless certain
special concessions are designed for them.
The overview provided here suggests that recent developments in
the capital market would, while liberating local agencies from the
control of central and state government, place the former under more
stringent conditionalities of trustees, commercial banks, and the SEBI,
etc. that are in turn controlled largely by pure market considerations.6

Institutional innovations for urban infrastructural development 59

Financial power would shift from the state governments to financial
institutions, international donors, and credit-rating agencies that,
through various innovative and complicated arrangements, would
control expenditure patterns.7 They would also be in a position to
determine the types of projects to be undertaken and in certain cases
the management system of the municipalities. It would, therefore, be
extremely important to monitor the problems faced by cities in
handling their budgetary earnings and expenditures after accepting
such terms and conditions for raising resources from capital markets.
The processes discussed above for evaluating and approving
development projects funded through SDOs, i.e. review by SEBI,
concerned credit-rating agencies, and trustees, give the impression that
projects are rigorously formulated and monitored when capital market
finance is involved. The fact that there have been considerable delays
in many cities in launching the identified projects and utilising the
bond proceeds obtained at high interest rates must therefore be
taken seriously. In a recent case, also in Ahmedabad, the bond
proceeds were not used in the first year since project designs and
tenders were not ready (Indo-US FIRE Project 2000). This happened
despite extensive technical support to the AMC from USAID in
preparing the proposal, CRISILs awarding the highest possible rating
to the proposal after a thorough examination, and the AMCs
acquiescence following SEBIs review of the bond prospectus to
appoint private project management consultants to facilitate the
process of project design, approval, tendering, construction supervision,
quality control, and payments. Taken together, these factors suggest
that procedural formalities were completed more for administrative or
bureaucratic purposes than in order to examine the economic feasibility
of the project and its implementation.
Were it not for an impending water crisis, AMCs use of the bond
proceeds may have been delayed even further. Indeed, the AMC
successfully implemented an emergency bulk water supply scheme
the Raska project in a record time of five months (Indo-US FIRE
Project 2000). Had the officials not been able to obtain clearance from
a large number of organisations at the central, state, and local levels so
quickly, the negative arbitrage implications (paying a higher rate of
interest of 14 per cent to bondholders than the interest it was receiving
on bond proceeds) would have been far more serious. The claims of
AMC that it could get highly competitive tenders from private
contractors, as it had huge cash flow due to delays in other projects, can,

60 Development and Cities

at best, be accepted as a hypothesis. As Ahmedabad is the state capital,
and home to most of the states economic and political lites, the
likelihood that the project would be approved by the state government
may be a better explanation of why competitive tenders were received
than that the corporation had a large cash flow because of having been
unable to undertake capital expenditure on schedule, after years of
careful planning.

Conclusions and generalisations

This overview of the innovative methods of financing infrastructure
development in urban India reveals that, given the resource crisis in
the economy, projects have come to depend on capital market borrowing,
privatisation, partnership arrangements, and community participation.
These seem to be the only options available for providing infrastructure
and basic amenities. Planners and policy makers have, in recent years,
made a strong case to make parastatal agencies as well as local
governments depend increasingly on their internal resources and
institutional finance, in order to [bring] in efficiency and accountability
in their functioning. Our analyses suggest that this changed
perspective and the consequent decline in public investment are likely
to accentuate disparity in the levels of amenities across the states and
size class of urban settlements.
Furthermore, poor people are likely to be priced out of the various
schemes that are being launched within the private and joint sector or
through subcontracting arrangements. The companies participating
in the schemes will ensure a change of perspective and force social
objectives to be diluted. As a consequence, better-off colonies will tend
to get more attention and a larger share of investable resources due to
their higher disposable incomes and political patronage. The public
sector schemes that have increasingly been made to depend on
institutional loans and the capital market reflect similar tendencies.
All these accentuate the gaps in the levels of basic amenities enjoyed in
rich and poor areas of the city.
Efforts are underway to develop the capital market so that a few of
the more efficient parastatal and local-level agencies can mobilise
resources by issuing SDOs and other credit instruments. An analysis
of the arrangements, worked out by financial intermediaries including
the credit-rating institutions, for accessing the capital market, reveals
that these can severely restrict the functioning of these ULBs and
impede them from fulfilling their normal obligations. In several cases,

Institutional innovations for urban infrastructural development 61

local bodies have been forced to pledge their regular earnings from
octroi, grants from the state, etc., as a guarantee for debt servicing.
Importantly, the projects that are likely to be financed through the
credit market would, by their very logic, be commercially viable and
ensure profitability to the investors and other stakeholders. However,
if the projects fail to generate the desired rate of profit, a local body may
be left with no funds even for general administration since much of
its revenue earnings will be diverted to pay investors or to complete
the project. It thus appears that the policy of liberating the local
governments from the regulatory and legislative controls of the state
would place them under the direct control of financial institutions.
This may be desirable from the viewpoint of developing a few global
cities, providing space for businesses, office complexes, and residences
for the executive and entrepreneurial class, but it may not answer the
need for basic amenities for the majority of urban poor.
Unfortunately, much of the subsidised infrastructure and amenities
provided through governmental programmes during the 1960s,
1970s, and early 1980s went to a few large cities and benefited mostly
the high- and middle-income neighbourhoods. Since the beginning of
structural adjustment in the early 1990s, the scope for this form of
subsidy has been drastically reduced. Ever more urban infrastructure
projects are relying on combinations of locally generated resources,
including cost-recovery pricing, subcontracting arrangements,
borrowings from capital markets, and various forms of community
participation. However, evidence is beginning to accumulate that this
rgime of service provision accentuates inequality across regions and
between different sizes or class of urban settlements. It may also
increase intra-urban disparity and lead to segmentation, particularly in
Indias metropolis and other large cities. This would have serious
consequences for micro-environments, local health, and law and order,
and possibly discourage foreign and private investment in and around
these cities. The whole process of liberalisation and efforts to create
a few global cities in India may then fall into jeopardy. Welfare
arguments apart, even the validity of efficiency arguments behind the
institutional innovations can be disputed by taking a slightly longer-
term perspective on urban development.

62 Development and Cities

Notes References
1 Hereafter, state refers to the second Chauhan, Uttara and Niraj Lal (1999)
tier of government in India, i.e. that Publicprivate partnerships for urban
which functions directly below the poor in Ahmedabad: a slum project,
federal or central government. Economic and Political Weekly 613
2 Only recently have several cities and March
one state taken initiatives to improve Credit Rating Information Services of
accounting and auditing systems in India Limited (CRISIL) (1996) Credit
urban centres (Indo-US FIRE Project Rating of Municipal Bonds, rating
1998a and 1998b). report on Ahmedabad Municipal
3 Regardless of the purpose, once a Corporation, New Delhi: CRISIL
rating has been issued, continued Dutta, Shyam S. (2000) Partnerships
surveillance by the rating agency is in urban development: a review of
important to identify changing Ahmedabads experience, Environment
conditions and trends in and Urbanization 11(2): 1326.
performance. (Indo-US FIRE Project Expert Group on Commercialisation of
1999) Infrastructure (1996) Infrastructure
4 Capital expenditures for this pilot Report: Policy Imperatives for Growth
project were funded with a grant from and Welfare, Ministry of Finance,
the UKs Overseas Development New Delhi: Government of India
Administration (now the Department Indo-US Financial Institutions Reform
for International Development). and Expansion Project (1998a) The
5 The delay and friction was caused Pune Water Supply and Sewerage
by lack of a clearly defined role of Project: focus on private sector
the AMC functionaries the AMC participation, Project Notes 9
engineer began to play a proactive Indo-US Financial Institutions Reform
supervisory role, despite the fact that and Expansion Project (1998b)
SHARDA trust had employed the Emerging issues in Indias municipal
contractor and was supervising him. bond system: the need for regulatory
There was tremendous confusion on control, Project Notes 10
site. (Chauhan and Lal 1999) Indo-US Financial Institutions Reform
6 The agencies active in the capital and Expansion Project (1999)
market admit that such stringent Developing a municipal credit-rating
requirements may place some burden system in India, Project Notes 20
on the development of a municipal Indo-US Financial Institutions Reform
bond system (Indo-US FIRE Project and Expansion Project (2000) Lessons
1998b). Learned: Ahmedabad Municipal Bond
7 Madhaya Pradesh government, for and Water Supply and Sewerage Project,
example, has admitted its ability to New Delhi: USAID
provide escrow cover to only a few of Joshi, R. (1996) Financial management
the proposed power projects, although in municipalities, Urban India 16(2)
a large number of applications are Kundu, A., S. Bagchi, and D. Kundu
lying with them (Economic Times (1999) Regional distribution of
August 1998). infrastructure and basic amenities
in urban India: issues concerning
empowerment of local bodies,
Economic and Political Weekly 34 (28)

Institutional innovations for urban infrastructural development 63

Mehta, M. and V. Satyanarayana (1996) National Institute of Urban Affairs
Pricing and Cost Recovery for Urban (NIUA) (1997) Scope and Practice of
Services, New Delhi: Community Privatisation of Urban Services in India,
Consulting International Study Series No. 60, New Delhi:
Ministry of Urban Development (1992) NIUA
The Constitution Seventy-fourth Suresh, V. (1999) Options for urban
Amendment Act 1992 on infrastructure development in India,
Municipalities, New Delhi: in Papers of the International Seminar
Government of India on Financing and Pricing of Urban
Municipal Corporation of Ahmedabad Infrastructure, New Delhi: Human
(1998) Slum Networking Project, Settlement Management Institute
Ahmedabad: AMC Verma, Gita Dewan (2000) Indores
Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) Habitat Improvement Project:
(1997) Budget 199596, revised success or failure?, Habitat
estimates, New Delhi: MCD International 24: 91117
Narayanan, E. (2000) Municipal debt World Bank (1995) India Transport Sector:
financing for urban infrastructure Long-term Issues, Report No. 13192-
development, in K. Singh and B. Tai IN, Washington, DC: World Bank
(eds) Financing and Pricing of Urban World Bank (1998) Reducing Poverty in
Infrastructure New Delhi: New Age India: Options for More Effective Public
International Services, Washington, DC: World Bank
National Institute of Public Finance and
Policy (NIPFP) (1995) Redefining
StateMunicipal Fiscal Relations,
Volume I (mimeo.), New Delhi:

64 Development and Cities

Institutionalising the concept of
environmental planning and
management: successes and
challenges in Dar es Salaam

Wilbard J. Kombe

Over the last three decades, most Third World cities have experienced
rapid growth accompanied by dwindling local and central government
resources and management capacities. Traditional approaches to urban
planning and administration, such as master plans or blueprints for
development, did not work and became increasingly obsolete in the
1970s and 1980s. Shortages of public finance and technical capacity
within the local and central authorities that were responsible for
controlling and directing urban development were exacerbated in the
1990s as the impacts of structural adjustment were felt. Urban
planning and management approaches also suffered other shortcomings,
failure to facilitate cross-sectoral co-ordination or inter-departmental
and inter-institutional collaboration;
insufficient mechanisms and tools for substantive participation by
community-based stakeholders;
absence of modalities for collaboration between the public and
private sector;
overemphasis on physical outputs rather than the process for
achieving them (Majani 2000).
As a result, unmanaged urban growth, characterised by the poor quality
or absence of basic public infrastructure, services, and facilities,
increasing environmental degradation, and the depletion of natural
resources, is the norm in most cities of the South. Dar es Salaam is no
exception. During the same period, the capacity of urban planners to
manage rapid urban growth has also declined (Post 1997: 347). Such
factors prompted the Prime Minister of Tanzania to dissolve the Dar es
Salaam City Council in June 1996 and replace it with a Commission

(Dar es Salaam City Commission, DCC) of centrally appointed members.1
Until then, Dar es Salaam had been reasonably independent of central
government. However, its powers to collect revenue and make decisions
were subject to frequent intervention by central government, meaning
that the city government has often been unable to fulfil its obligations
to local citizens.
It was in response to these worsening urban management problems
and conditions that Habitat (UNCHS), in collaboration with the United
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), developed and began
promoting its urban Environmental Planning and Management (EPM)
agenda. Underlying the EPM approach is the concern to create a
harmonious balance between physical development and the environment
in urban settings, and to involve those groups interested in and affected
by urban development in seeking solutions to problems that may arise.
EPM emphasises the interrelations between and among social actors
and environmental issues and thus puts partnership among the key
stakeholders at its centre. These partners or stakeholders typically
include actors in the public, private, and popular sectors, civil society,
and NGOs.2
An agreement to adopt the EPM in Dar es Salaam was signed by the
government of Tanzania in 1992. That same year, the Sustainable Dar
es Salaam Project (SDP) was established, becoming operational in
1993 in order to institutionalise the EPM in the functioning of the City
Council.3 The SDP mandated stakeholders to produce a Strategic
Urban Development Plan (SUDP) for the city. This was to be accomplished
with substantive inputs from working groups (WGs) composed of
informed representatives of key stakeholders, including grassroots
representatives.4 Their functions within local government were to be
deliberative, consultative, strategic, and mobilisational.
In the EPM scheme, WGs result from stakeholder consultations
whose purpose is to identify priority environmental issues at the city,
municipal, or town level. In theory, the WGs open up channels for
residents to influence decisions and contribute to the management of
the city. WGs therefore may be seen as energisers and agents of change
in the management style and decision-making processes in local
government. They also facilitate and enhance the accountability of
public institutions to local citizens.
This article chronicles the functioning, achievements, and failures
of two such WGs, one on the management of informal (petty) trading
activities and the other on the management of communal open spaces.

66 Development and Cities

Most of the data were collected in interviews with key actors in the
respective WGs and with representatives of the main institutions and
relevant NGOs. These WGs were chosen from among the nine in
existence because they were among the few that had analysed the
issues, formulated strategies, and gone on to implement them.

Description of the EPM working groups

A city consultation meeting held in 1992 allowed stakeholders to
develop a consensus on the priority problems of Dar es Salaam and how
to address them. In accordance with EPM protocol, this consultation
provided the mandate to establish WGs comprising key actors or
stakeholders from public, private, and popular sectors. Each WG was
required to prepare an action plan, identify the information/data
required and other experts or other actors and institutions to be
contacted or involved, and to determine the sessions to be held, and
outputs or targets.
The WGs were also mandated to choose chairpersons and co-
ordinators.5 The latter were often appointed from among the SDP
technical experts that is they were persons knowledgeable about EPM
many of whom were officers seconded to the SDP unit from the
central government ministries. Members of the WGs were intended to
represent the stakeholders and were supposed to be chosen from
among senior technical staff who could take decisions on behalf of their
institutions. In practice, most institutions appointed less influential
All nine WGs were constituted in response to the priority environmental
issues identified.6 While some DCC councillors became WG members,
the day-to-day operations of the SDP unit were run by WG co-ordinators,
headed by a project manager or co-ordinator.7 Initially, Habitat
appointed an expatriate technical adviser to set up the unit, but this post
was later filled by a local expert. Since its inception in Dar es Salaam,
the head of the SDP and now the Urban Authorities Support Unit
(UASU) have been appointed from outside the DCC.
From the outset, the SDP has been a separate physical entity with its
own assets and management structure. Currently, its only role is to
support the institutionalisation of the EPM in three new municipalities
in Dar es Salaam. Following a recent government decision to replicate
the EPM elsewhere, the UASU has been formed to co-ordinate,
monitor, and support this process.8

Institutionalising the concept of environmental planning and management 67

The SDP depends on Habitat and UNDP for financial, logistical, and
technical support. Administratively, the SDP and UASU are
accountable to the City Council and Ministry of Local Government,
respectively. On technical matters, they are largely answerable to
Habitat and UNDP: Habitat provides in-house expertise and short-
term consultants, and UNDP is the main donor, though it does not
fund the WGs action plans or projects (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Institutional framework for operationalising the EPM in Dar es Salaam City

Provides financial Provides technical
and logistical support including
support to short term consultants
Monitors EPM

Councillors (until June 1966)
Commissioners (up to December 2000)
Approves/adopts strategies and solicits finances
to implement WGs ideas
Chairs city consultations

Operationalise EPM in
Dar es Salaam and other
municipalities through WGs
Answerable to the DCC, Ministry
of Local Government, and UNDP
Monitor performance of all WGs
and their coordinators
Mobilise stakeholders including CBOs,
and private and public sector actors
Mobilise resources for executing action
plans prepared by WGs

Direct link Indirect link

68 Development and Cities

According to the plans, the participation of the DCCs functional
officers and other technical staff in the WGs would eventually serve to
integrate EPM into the routine functions of the DCC. The resulting
changes would sustain collaboration between the local authority
and other stakeholders in identifying environmental problems and
developing and implementing strategies to address them.

Implementing EPM via the working group process

Case study I: management of informal trading activities9
The nature of informal (petty) trading activities: The extent, growth rate,
and potential inherent in informal trade activities (ITAs) in Tanzania
are difficult to quantify because the definition of what constitutes petty
or informal trade activities is ambiguous, and local-level opportunities
vary widely.10 However, a study conducted in Dar es Salaam in 1995
estimated that there were about 350,000 informal businesses
providing approximately 500,000 jobs (SIDO-GTZ 1995). The 1992
National Informal Sector Survey report estimated that petty trading
engaged 64 per cent of the informal business sector in Dar es Salaam
and provided employment to over 203,000 people.
The SIDO-GTZ study further showed that more than 90 per cent of
these petty traders had no security of tenure to the land on which they
were carrying out their activities, i.e. they were largely operating on
areas not sanctioned or designated for trading by the local government.
Despite this, ITAs have been flourishing and expanding rapidly and
include activities such as selling fruit, vegetables, prepared foods,
flowers, newspapers, used garments, and petty services.11 In the
absence of permanent premises and security of tenure, most vendors
operate from makeshift tables or temporary sheds erected on open
spaces or along roadsides. Many inner-city sites, including pedestrian
malls and major road junctions, are lined with hawkers.12 Most vendors
are unemployed youth, although mama lishe (women food vendors) are
more prominent among those selling food. In general, informal petty
business is the employment of last resort for the most economically
vulnerable city residents.
The regulation of ITAs has been haphazard, often leading to
adverse effects on the traders immediate surroundings. These include
land-use conflicts and other problems resulting from the improper
management of the waste from petty trading, obstruction of traffic
movement, trespassing on private or semi-private premises

Institutionalising the concept of environmental planning and management 69

(e.g. shopping verandas), etc.. Worse, because informal businesses are
largely conducted on premises that have not been sanctioned for such
use, some vendors pay exorbitant sums of money to operate there. That
such payments usually end up in private pockets rather than in local
government coffers (SIDO-GTZ 1995), in part explains the local
governments concern to improve the way in which ITAs are managed.
Local authorities traditionally have a negative perception of informal
petty trading, and this attitude has resulted in numerous crackdowns
on petty traders by askaris (DCC militia), causing losses, injuries, and
forced evictions or round-ups.13 Yet despite such repression, and even
prosecutions, ITAs have grown. Trade liberalisation and low salaries
coupled with massive retrenchment, especially in the public sector,
have accelerated such growth (Yusuph 2000). The ensuing conflicts
and the increasing role that ITAs were playing in the city economy led
to this being identified as a priority concern during the city consultation
workshop in 1992.
Working group formation and performance: Given the magnitude of
the conflicts, the complexity of the trading activities, and the diversity
of interests and actors involved, the search for solutions required a
multidisciplinary approach. Thus the WG on petty trading comprised
12 stakeholders including VIBINDO (Vikundi vya Biashara Ndogondogo,
the Organisation of Small-scale Business Groups), DKOA (Dar es
Salaam Kiosk Owners Association), and the City Council Departments
of Planning, Economy, Trade, and Legal Matters, as well as councillors
and Ward Executive Officers, representatives of the key ministries
(i.e. Labour and Youth, Trade and Industry), and representatives of
important NGOs and government institutions, including SIDO
(Small Scale Industries Organisation), GTZ (the German technical
co-operation programme), Poverty Africa, and the ILO.
One of the first outcomes from the negotiations, which was carried
by the WG in 1994, was the agreement to acknowledge informal (petty)
traders as legitimate actors in the city. Thus, their activities would have
to be supported by the citys development planning and management
process. To accomplish this, the WG developed three guiding strategies:
accommodation: support to vendors operating in uncontested areas;
eviction: expulsion of vendors operating on prohibited or contested
sites, including stalls or makeshift tables mounted in front of or
within public premises such as school areas and around public
office buildings and hospitals;

70 Development and Cities

relocation: establishment of new market facilities and expansion of
existing ones to provide space for resettling petty traders operating
in the overcrowded or undesignated areas, particularly in the city
Of these, relocation was the main strategy, primarily because it helped
hawkers to remain in their trade. This seems to have been an important
precondition for bringing key actors together and forging consensus.
This was certainly the case for VIBINDO, which repeatedly had to
assure vendors that the WG intended to work with them and solve their
problems in order to get their collaboration.
Further consultations and discussions were then conducted with
various groups representing vendors and other informal sector
operators in the city, to solicit their views, support, and co-operation.
Explaining the problems associated with reconciling diverging
interests, the WG co-ordinator recalled:
the most difficult stage during the initial working group sessions was to
evolve and agree on a common strategy. Often, differences emerged between
vendors organisations [e.g. VIDINDO and DKOA] as well as among
WG members. It took us a lot of time and effort to come to an agreement.14

Ultimately, a consensus was reached including proposals for relocating

vendors at two sites, Makumbusho and Sterio-Temeke. The relocation
proposal included a sketch design for market sheds to accommodate
vendors, drawn up by an architectural firm in consultation with the
WG. Modest fees, to be paid by the vendors to the DCC, were also
proposed. The global proposal was then submitted to the DCC for approval
and eventual support in mobilising the necessary financial resources.
Unexpectedly, shortly after receiving the proposals, and without
consulting the WG, the DCC resolved to evict hawkers from Congo
Street, one of their strongholds in the city. This action was taken
ostensibly because the street had to be reconstructed, and vendors were
required to move to the two sites identified by the WG.15
The DCC then shelved the WGs proposal for modest market sheds.
Through competitive bidding, another private architectural firm won
the tender to prepare new design proposals for the market. Without
consulting the WG, the firm proposed a modern market complex. This
was approved by the DCC and subsequently built.16 Asked why the
design that had been generated in consultation with the WG was
abandoned, one WG member who worked in the institution that
financed the new market proposal responded:

Institutionalising the concept of environmental planning and management 71

I was an active member of two WGs, that is the petty trading and traffic
management group. Before the City Council was abolished in June 1996,
WGs were generally working closely with the various DCC Departments.
For instance there were staff from the City Council Departments
participating in our WGs. However, when the Commission took up its
duties, the link between WGs and the Commission waned. We [the funding
agency] only received a notice from the Commission saying that a new
design for the market was required because the sketch proposal submitted
by the WG did not meet requirements for a modern market, as it did not
provide for cold rooms, butchers, grocers etc.. In order to respect and meet
our clients needs and interests we floated the tender for competitive bidding.
This is the standard procedure we used to award design as well as
construction contracts.

Commissioners gave varying reasons on why the WG proposal was not

adopted by the DCC.17 Some observed that:
the land designated for the relocation of vendors [markets] were prime
sites. The Commission therefore decided to put up structures which would
reflect the value of the land as well as enhance the visual outlook of the area.

Another commented that:

what the WG had proposed did not take into account other factors such
as options which can generate the desperately needed revenue. The WG
was only concerned with the Machinga [hawkers] resettlement problem.
This is only one of the problems the Commission was facing.18

Asked why they did not consult the WG when the decision to drop its
proposal was made, one Commissioner said that the DCC was not
obliged to seek WG approval for decisions taken by management.
Others said that because the SDP attended the DCC management
meetings, it was up to the SDP project manager to inform WG co-
ordinators and members of decisions made by the DCC.
The eviction of the hawkers from Congo Street without consulting
the WG or taking into account the WG proposals, and the decision to
set aside the WGs design for simple market sheds in favour of very
costly structures, challenged the central tenets of the EPM, namely
building partnership among stakeholders and ensuring their
participation in managing the citys development. Indeed, the WG
seems to have had little or no impact on this process.
The eviction of petty traders provoked skirmishes between the City
Council askaris and vendors and led to new invasions by hawkers on

72 Development and Cities

Figure 2: Operational path for the informal (petty) trading working group

WG visits and inspects trading sites,

documents ongoing activities and ensuing
conflicts. FESIBA, DKOA, VIBINDO play
active role.

WG deliberates upon conflicts and options, seeks

more data and information, and makes preliminary
proposals on accommodation, relocation, or eviction.

FESIBA/DKOA consult WG consults with Zonal

members. SIDO/GTZ Task Forces and District
facilitate the discussions Officers on options and
and provide technical accesses information
advice. about potentials of the
proposed relocation sites.

WG reconciles data and options from zones

and sectoral vendor organisations.
Negotiates and adopts strategies and sites.
Makumbusho and Temeke chosen for relocation.

WG submits (accommodation, eviction,

and relocation) strategies to the DCC
for approval.
DCC unilaterally adopts eviction
(without consultation with WG).

open sites elsewhere. More generally, the DCCs actions not only
demoralised the stakeholders but also increased hostility between the
local authority and the vendors.19
Most stakeholders who participated in the WGs expected to obtain
some benefit. Vendors expected that through negotiation they would
get a better deal, e.g. permanent and safe trading places. Others, such
as VIBINDO and DKOA, wanted the city to adopt a more coherent and

Institutionalising the concept of environmental planning and management 73

supportive approach to the petty trading problem.20 The DCC, on the
other hand, used its powers to ensure the adoption of an option that
would above all boost revenue collection as well as improve the
cityscape. But because the new Temeke and Makumbusho markets
have been abandoned by the vendors (Yusuph 2000), the interests of
neither the DCC nor the WG seem to have been met.21
Case study II: management of open space
The abuse and misuse of open spaces: The WG on the management of
open spaces was also established in response to the 1992 city
consultation and became operational in January 1994. It was charged
with addressing problems such as:
illegal occupation or invasion of open spaces;
legal but dubious subdivision and changes of the use of open
spaces by unscrupulous (DCC/MLHSD) officers; and
underdevelopment and or misuse of open spaces.
The group comprised over 10 institutions and 13 members, including
representatives from the local Mtaa (sub-ward)22 and ward committees,
the Ministry of Lands and Human Settlement Development (MLHSD),
the National Environmental Council, the National Land Use Commission,
the City Council Departments of Planning, Public Works (Parks and
Gardens Section), and councillors appointed from the DCC committees.
As with other WGs, institutional representatives were to be appointed
on the basis of relevant skills, knowledge, or information about the
subject in question, and a personal interest in it. A few additional
resource persons were invited to join specific sessions.23 The WG chose
to focus on one of the most affected residential areas in the city, namely
the planned high-density housing neighbourhoods close to the city
centre. Six of the citys 52 wards were selected, two each from the
districts of Kinondoni, Ilala, and Temeke.24
Evolving and inaugurating community-based open space management:
This WG decided that local community leaders should be commissioned
to manage open spaces. Describing how this strategy evolved, the WG
co-ordinator said:
We started with visits to the selected wards and Mtaa. We conducted
several meetings with Mtaa, Ten cell, and at times Ward Executive Officers.
We also had layout maps [scale 1: 2500] covering the areas we visited.
During the visits to the wards and Mtaa, the community leaders took us
[WG] round to observe the use of the public open spaces in their areas and

74 Development and Cities

plot or confirm their location on the maps. It is from the discussions and
experiences about the communitys achievements and flaws in trying to
check the abuse and misuse of open spaces that the idea to involve local
leaders emerged. For instance, from the informal discussions with a ward
leader in Mwananyamala Ward, we learnt that [the] Mtaa leader in
Kambangwa street in the ward, had filed a case in the court against
an unscrupulous builder who invaded and erected a house on
community open space.

Later, the observations and views collected during local visits were
discussed in WG sessions and incorporated into the strategy that was
adopted. However, because the Public Recreation Grounds Ordinance
does not mandate communities or private individuals to manage and
develop public open spaces, the WG had to seek the DCCs approval to
legalise the proposed arrangement.25
Predictably, community resistance to invasions of recreational open
spaces was already the most common response to the problem. Thus,
the WGs strategy of empowering the local community to play a
meaningful role in the development and management of open spaces
did not require much mobilisation or extended negotiations with
grassroots leaders. However, a contract had to be drawn up to define
roles, stipulate conditions, and, most importantly, formalise agreements
between the local government and the respective community leaders,
corporate bodies, or private individuals, as necessary.26
Apart from formulating this contract, the WG also initiated an
awareness-creation campaign that aimed to mobilise support from
residents. This involved the Commission, the three City District
Commissioners, ward, and Mtaa leaders. According to WG co-ordinators,
local community leaders were excited and enthusiastic about the new
approach these campaigns proclaimed. Many of them felt that gradually
their role in the city management process was being acknowledged.
Marked improvements have been made in the wards where
community leaders and private companies were contracted to develop
and manage open spaces. For instance, communities in Mwananyamala,
Ward 14 Temeke, Makurumla, and Ilala wards have taken initiatives
not only to protect open spaces against invaders but also to develop
them by planting trees, providing leisure facilities, and undertaking
routine cleaning. This approach has tapped resources from private
companies to improve open spaces in other areas such as Mnazi
Mmoja, Mwananyamala B, and Temeke Wailesi. Furthermore, several
private companies have sought DCC consent to manage and develop

Institutionalising the concept of environmental planning and management 75

Figure 3: Inauguration of community-led strategy for managing open spaces

Working Group compiles inventory and

maps open spaces in the pilot wards/Mtaa,
develops strategies, and seeks institutional

City Chairman informs the public through

the media about the new open space
management strategy.

District Commissioners conduct awareness-

raising supported by ward executive officers
and Mtaa leaders.

Commissioning of the Mtaa and private

individuals to manage and develop open
spaces; signing of contracts.

areas such as Biafra open space along Kawawa Road in Kinondoni, a

playground at Namanga shopping area, Oyster Bay beach area, and
Mbagala Kibonde Maji open space in Mbagala Ward. These initiatives
suggest that the community and private sector are willing to collaborate
with the public sector in order to supplement the latters weaknesses.
These positive developments must be set against less positive
trends, which most notably include the DCCs waning commitment to
integrating the WGs in its routine functions. Grassroots actors
enthusiasm for and contributions to the management of open spaces
has also declined. This is attributed to a number of factors, chief among
them the DCCs failure to honour the agreement to delegate manage-
ment of open spaces to local community leaders. Local leaders in Sinza,
Buguruni, and Magomeni Wards complain that zonal or city authorities
have not responded effectively to their request to restrain invasion or
encroachment on open spaces. They also complain that invaders often
collude with officials at the DCC or the MLHSD. The officials change
the use of open spaces without consulting community leaders,

76 Development and Cities

suggesting that the officers responsible have vested interests.27 There
have also been instances of Mtaa leaders attempting to evict invaders
from open spaces, only to be restrained from doing so by the DCC.
Working group co-ordinators claim that their attempts to follow up
appeals forwarded to the DCC by ward and Mtaa leaders often received
a cold response, signalling the institutions unwillingness to co-
operate.28 In other words, despite the proclaimed intention of involving
local community leaders to play active roles in the management and
development of open spaces, and the exemplary results from the pilot
wards, some DCC bureaucrats have continued to operate as if nothing
had changed, or as if community leaders or WG roles do not much
The DCCs insensitivity to proposals and appeals for support from
community leaders has demoralised and weakened the WG members,
particularly the local representatives. This, coupled with lack of logistical
support to facilitate WG sessions, seems to have undermined the
partnership spirit of the EPM approach. Owing (among other things)
to vested interests, the belief that roundtable consensus reached
through the EPM would push those in powerful or decision-making
positions to adopt and support partnership with stakeholders, is in
jeopardy. Discussing the rise and fall of governmentcommunity
partnership for urban development in Sri Lanka, Vidler and Russell
(2000: 85) caution that entrenched government institutions and power
structures could undermine sustainable partnership. This observation
may also explain the flagging nature of the collaboration between DCC,
bureaucrats, and local communities in enhancing the management of
open spaces in Dar es Salaam.

An overview of past and recent trends of the working

The overall performance and extent to which WGs were deployed in the
decision-making processes and resolution of environmental problems
in the city since the inception of the EPM is outlined below. This
account is based on interviews with 18 individuals, among them SDP
co-ordinators, WG members, heads of DCC departments, as well as
three City Commissioners and two former DCC councillors.
Overall, the DCC has benefited from the innovative strategies
developed by the WGs, particularly in relation to the improvement of
solid waste collection, the establishment of a city-wide Geographic
Information System (GIS) Unit, traffic management in the city centre,

Institutionalising the concept of environmental planning and management 77

and partnership arrangements for improving basic infrastructure in
informal housing. However, while the DCC has implemented a number
of WG proposals, these have mainly been those that contributed to
accomplishing its own short-term agenda. It would appear that it has
been one thing to access or implement proposals from WGs, but quite
another for the DCC to take steps to change working norms for routine
urban planning and management functions. As depicted in Figure 4,
WGs were deployed increasingly between 1991 and 1996, but this
trend declined in early 1997.
The nature of activities and conditions that contributed to the rise
and fall of their deployment are also shown. As we have already seen,
the general observation is that during the City Councils period, WGs
were generally extensively deployed, but much less so during the
Commissions era.

The working group approach: lessons and challenges

It may be too early to assess the degree of institutionalisation or
extent of reforms that the EPM approach has contributed to the routine
planning and management systems of the City Council. It is also
difficult to generalise from the achievements and flaws observed to
date. However, the evidence suggests that unless the challenges which
have arisen in the course of implementing the two EPM programmes
are addressed, the sustainability of the concept in reforming planning
and management in Tanzania will be jeopardised.
This is not to question the need for an alternative planning and
management approach or to suggest that its implementation ought to
have been a straightforward task. In fact, because the implementation
of EPM inevitably involves cross-sectoral and cross-jurisdictional
issues, as well as a multitude of institutions and actors, achieving a
breakthrough in reforming urban management and planning practices
is likely to take time. However, it is worth recapitulating those factors
which have adversely affected implementation of the EPM so that we
can build upon the experiences of Dar es Salaam.
Insensitive culture of governance and transition from City
Council to Commission
The EPM approach encourages partnership between local government
institutions and other stakeholders in urban development. At the
centre of this partnership is the question of power-sharing between the
local government officers and other stakeholders. But without any legal

78 Development and Cities

Figure 4: The deployment of working groups, 19922000

Intensity of working
group activities



91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 2000

New project, enthusiasm from many Pilot projects End of financial support
Financial resources available implemented (from UNDP) to WGs and
(UNDP/Habitat) Many action coordinators
plans and DCC not keen on the
Political support/assistance bankable SDP/WGs
from PM and DCC high projects Limited WG meetings,
expectations formulated mainly DCC coordinators
Stakeholders keen to see Awareness- (insufficiently trained)
solution to environmental creation and working with the SDP
problems training Replication diverts focus
sessions held from DSM to other
Many ongoing activities
Well-informed municipalities
including environmental
and motivated SUDP generation period,
profile accomplished WGs fewer people involved
Motivated coordinators coordinators
Under-estimation of
grassroots leaders
Action plans prepared
but not implemented;
WGs demoralised

or structural position in local government, WGs essentially act like

voluntary pressure groups. Local government officials ask Who are these
WGs, with whom we must share decision-making powers? The situation
in Dar es Salaam was further compounded by the replacement in 1996 of
the elected council with a team of bureaucrats (commissioners) appointed
by central government. This seems to have short-circuited local demo-
cratisation processes, especially the participation of stakeholders and
representatives of civil society in the management of city affairs which,
in turn, seems to have made it harder for the EPM to be institutionalised.29

Institutionalising the concept of environmental planning and management 79

The ongoing process of democratisation in Tanzania, including
political pluralism, local government reforms, and calls for more
transparency in the dealings of the public sector, are yet to have any
significant impact on the management style of local governments.
Discussing how centralised power and decision making in the DCC
Chairman has affected solid waste management in the city, Majani
(2000) asserts that the lack of delegation led to higher transaction costs.
For instance, decisions were often delayed or could only be made after
the DCC Chairman had sanctioned them.30
Emphasising the omnipotence of the City Commission, Majani
further notes that the practice at DCC was what has not been seen
(i.e. sanctioned) by the Chairman has not been seen by the
Commission. Suffice it to say that the climate at the DCC was not
conducive to empowering functional officers to take decisions. It is no
wonder actors from outside the DCC, such as WGs and community
leaders, faced obstacles in their path as they tried to influence decision-
making processes.
Immature transition to multi-party democracy
The adoption of participatory urban planning and management is
taking place at the advent of multi-party democracy in Tanzania.
The EPM concept and multi-party democracy ought to be mutually
reinforcing, yet this does not seem to be the case. Multi-party democracy
is new and has yet to mature. And, as all plans are ultimately political
statements and all attempts to implement them are political acts
(Rondinelli 1983), partisan politics in the context of multi-party
competition may even be slowing the implementation of EPM, as
bureaucrats may distrust WG members because of their affiliation to
certain (opposition) parties.31 This tends to reinforce traditional
administrative centralism that is so dominant among some local
government bureaucrats and especially in an unelected local council
and that disregards other parts of the urban administration and is
insensitive to the principle of subsidiarity. This context seems to have
been one of the main constraints on institutionalising the EPM in
Dar es Salaam (Majani 2000).
Frequent change of top leadership and priorities
The frequent change of the chief executives of the DCC six in eight
years adversely affected the process of institutionalising the EPM.
Every time a new city executive was appointed, the SDP had to re-
establish links with the new leadership, and had to make repeated

80 Development and Cities

efforts to gain each successive executives support for the EPM
approach. In addition, because of lack of continuity in the DCC
administration, a number of training sessions had to be held to inform
new incumbents about the new city management and planning
Since the EPM was adopted in Dar es Salaam, the city authorities,
including the mayor and later the DCC Chairman, have repeatedly
made public statements in support of fully incorporating EPM into the
city management system. These statements were seldom backed by
action. For instance, none of the proposals submitted to the City
Council or Commission seeking a financial contribution to facilitate
WG sessions was granted, despite numerous promises (Kombe 1999b).
The change of priorities, and especially the expectation of immediate
outputs, during the Commission tenure seems to have undermined
the adoption of the EPM within the DCC. Discussing the criteria for
evaluating the ability to implement plans, Rakodi and Devas (1993: 60)
caution that those in power have somehow to accept them. Although
the DCC was interested and did sometimes use WG outputs, at the
same time it seemed reluctant to address the constraints to the generation
and flow of outputs. In the end, the low priority given to the SDP is
reflected in the governments failure to meet its pledge to provide
matching funds for the national sustainable cities programme over the
19962000 period. By May 2000, only US$75,000 of the promised
US$1,200,000 had materialised (Burian 2000).
Furthermore, priorities and decisions during the DCCs term largely
focused on areas where quick results could be obtained. By and large,
the City Commission tended to adopt WGs contributions only if these
fitted into and/or gave immediate tangible outputs. Thus, in the
months following the formation of the City Commission, the WGs
started to wither, as did the relationship between the DCC and the SDP
(depicted in Figure 4).32
Overemphasis on physical outputs, and insufficient knowledge
In Tanzania, where the tradition of master planning remains influential,
the term project is largely understood to mean the construction of
infrastructure and the like. Thus, when the SDP was established, many
at the DCC assumed that it was a project along the lines of sites and
service or squatter improvement initiatives, and they expected the SDP
to channel funds to tackle problems such as poor roads, lack of storm
water drains, the lack of trucks for emptying cesspits, or insufficient

Institutionalising the concept of environmental planning and management 81

housing plots. Changing that perception among councillors and
bureaucrats took time. According to an SDP co-ordinator, Often it has
been difficult to get support from some of the commissioners because
they perceived the EPM as a project that ought to fund development
programmes of the DCC. When funds for such purposes were not
forthcoming, many bureaucrats lost interest.
These misconceptions about the SDP and the EPM approach, how
it should operate, and what its outputs should be persist among some
officials to this day. Unless those who are expected to put the EPM into
practice truly understand its aims, the sustainability and institutional-
isation of the approach are likely to founder.
Semi-autonomous status of the SDP
The EPM in Dar es Salaam is handicapped by the fact that the agent of
change, the SDP, was established as a semi-autonomous unit outside
the DCC. This caused various problems, including weak communication
between the staff of the two bodies.33 The physical separation between
the SDP and the DCC, coupled with the comparatively better
remuneration and working environment enjoyed by the generally
more junior SDP staff, also fostered some ill-will and so hampered
working relationships that could have facilitated the adoption of the
EPM norms in the routine operations of the DCC.34 This was
exacerbated by the fact that all project managers and co-ordinators were
appointed from outside the DCC. Former SDP co-ordinators noted
the EPM concept seems to have been over-mystified. Throughout its
existence the head has been appointed from outside the DCC, and not
from among us. We do not know why.35 Since all project managers and
co-ordinators were appointed on merit, such remarks probably
represent petty grudges. But the underlying message is clear.
Elitism and distrust of working groups
The EPM approach requires bureaucrats and politicians to be open and
responsive to ideas from stakeholders.36 But while DCC departments
were represented in the WGs, the experiences recounted in the case
studies above show that DCC officials typically received proposals from
the WGs with reservation, if not outright scorn. The VIBINDO
Executive Secretary noted:
Both the former City Council and the Commission have done little to solve
the Machinga [hawkers] problem except to harass them and evict them.
They believe they have solutions to problems even when their actions do not

82 Development and Cities

work. They cannot provide employment to the youth, but they destroy their
initiatives. The major problem is that the relationship between City Council
or Commission and us [non-council persons] is poor. They think we
[VIBINDO] are lay-persons and thus have no [skills] or good ideas, which
can address local problems. They ignore us because they think we cannot
speak the same language.37

It is no surprise that views and ideas from below are looked down on
by those in power. Bureaucrats often tend to treat people from outside
the local government system as uninformed lay-persons who cannot
make meaningful contributions towards solving community problems
(Kombe 1995). Such attitudes may frustrate the establishment of
partnerships with private and community actors, and undermine the
EPM approach.

Conclusion and recommendations

EPM implies cross-sectoral co-ordination and consensus-building
among many stakeholders often with diverse interests. It must,
therefore, proceed slowly. If it takes too long to deliver tangible
outputs, the approach is likely to be criticised by those who expect
fast results. Indeed, its time-consuming nature may imply costs that
stakeholders are unwilling to pay. Some stakeholders may well
abandon the approach in favour of existing, though often unsustainable,
fast-track options. It is therefore essential that WGs become more
efficient and output oriented. This may be accomplished initially by
choosing smaller pilot study areas where the pressing environmental
issues require strategic inputs from WG stakeholders. The WGs
should not attempt, however, to manage routine local government
Changing power relationships and norms, rules, and procedures is
a slow and complex process, particularly because self-interest may
inhibit such changes. To consolidate the radical changes in the local
institutional setting envisaged by the EPM will take time, endurance,
and ongoing nurturing of the approach, as well as tolerance on all
The present role and position of WGs in local government is
ambiguous, since they have neither a statutory nor a structural
position in the administration. Their position as an operational arm
of the EPM should be defined, including a mechanism to convey
feedback from the local authority to the WG members. While WGs

Institutionalising the concept of environmental planning and management 83

ought to facilitate partnerships, they should be dissolved once
their specific tasks are accomplished and not become permanent
structures within the local government. However, the institutional
framework for deploying and responding to WGs should be
developed at all levels of urban governance.
Local governments should play a leading role in implementing the
EPM, particularly by convening WG sessions. Local government is
in a position to foster confidence in the WGs among local bureaucrats,
increase WG accountability to local government, and mitigate or
eradicate the power-sharing problem. Organised local communities,
including those at the ward and Mtaa level should be assisted to
adopt and form their own WGs to link with those operating at the
local government level.
Sustained partnership requires that all parties share benefits as well
as costs. This is important in order to help establish a recognition of
(monetary) value of the WGs outputs as well as fostering their
accountability to the local authorities.
The shift from bureaucratically controlled to substantive stakeholder
participation in urban planning and management can improve the
handling of problems facing our cities and towns, whether through
mobilising resources or in order to promote environmentally friendly
urban settlements. The EPMs impacts on and contribution to
sustainable development in Dar es Salaam are already being felt in the
gradual adoption of multi-sectoral approaches to planning and
management in the City Council; the implementation of an effective
traffic management system; the training of central and local government
staff as well as community (civil society) leaders in the three municipalities;
and the increased participation of residents (both community members
and professionals) in urban governance.
So far, the UASU has concentrated on the nine new municipalities
and the city of Dar es Salaam. Little has been done to support, build
capacity, and put in place a policy and legislative framework for
monitoring long-term replication and implementation of the EPM
process elsewhere in Tanzania. In addition to the recommendations
above, the future prospects of EPM in the country also hinge on the
ability to explore and build the capacity to propagate and monitor the
adoption of the EPM at a pace that meets the anticipated demand
nationwide. This will happen only if the key ministries responsible for
urban development management and planning, as well as key training

84 Development and Cities

institutions in the country, are fully involved in promoting the EPM

1 Most DCC bureaucrats are appointees 6 Priority environmental issues which
of the council; commissioners are were identified and agreed upon are:
appointees of the central government. solid waste management, liquid waste
Local communities in the wards elect management, air quality management
councillors, who often have different and urban transportation, open space
socio-economic or training back- management and urban agriculture.
grounds from those of the Others are upgrading unplanned and
commissioners or DCC bureaucrats. unserviced settlements, managing
2 UNCHS (Habitat) and UNEP launched urban expansion, managing urban
the Sustainable Cities Programme renewal, managing coastal resources
(SCP) in August 1990, as part of the and managing the urban economy
Urban Management Programme. Its and integrating petty trading in the
main goal is to ensure that fast- urban economy.
growing cities and towns remain 7 SDP co-ordinators or project managers
economically, socially, and environ- were appointed on merit by a panel
mentally sustainable. For more details constituted of officers from the
see SCP Source Book Series, Habitat/ Ministry of Local Government and
UNEP; see also UNCHS 1995, 1997. Regional Administration, the city
3 Institutionalisation here refers to a (Commission) council and Habitat.
process whereby the participatory 8 UASU, like SDP, continues to operate
principles and instruments inherent as a separate entity and maintains a
in the EPM approach are adopted in financial accounting and management
the routine decision-making process. system separate from that of the local
This implies that EPM norms become governments it supports.
stable and legitimate within local 9 Management of informal activities
government structures. or businesses entailed organising the
4 Informed in the sense that the actors and their activities, providing
selection of stakeholders represent- premises, and formalising their
ative groups is inter alia made from operations by registering them and
persons with knowledge of, and issuing licences.
interest in, the specific environ- 10 Petty trading is a part of the informal
mental issue of concern. sector operations. It is estimated that
5 The emphasis on partnership the informal sector could employ
primarily arose from the increasing about 65 per cent of the annual
acknowledgement of the fact that increase in the labour force while the
neither the central, local government, formal sector can absorb only 8.5 per
popular sector, donor communities, cent (URT 1997).
nor private sector alone has sufficient 11 Some activities including vegetable
wherewithal to address problems and food vending as well as service
posed by unprecedented urban activities such as carpentry, garages,
population growth. and tailoring have fixed premises,

Institutionalising the concept of environmental planning and management 85

but these have often not been 2000) characterised Makumbusho
sanctioned by the local government. market as A sleeping giant and
12 The location of informal (petty) reported that despite the call on petty
trading in the city is often influenced traders (Machingas) by the President
by the expected flow of buyers from of Tanzania on 26 September 1997 to
surrounding areas. make full use of it, the complex
13 For instance, it is estimated that forced remained sparsely occupied with only
eviction of petty traders in Congo 65 of 350 stalls being used. This
Street in Dar es Salaam City resulted market complex is reported to have
in a loss of over 30,000 businesses cost TShs 370 million (US$500,000).
and property worth more than TShs 22 Mtaa, or sub-ward, is the smallest
500 million (SIDO-GTZ 1995). administrative unit of local govern-
14 Discussion with Anna Mtani on 26 ment and comprises several Ten Cell
March 2000. Units or agglomerations of ten
15 Discussion with the WG Co-ordinators houses (though in practice the
and a former head of the DCC number varies from eight to 15
department. dwellings).
16 The reported cost of building the 23 For instance, during some of the WG
Sterio-Temeke market was TShs 480 sessions, local leaders (Mtaa and Ten
million (US$600,000). Cell leaders) who had been involved
17 Interviews conducted with some of in initiatives to protect and monitor
the former DCC commissioners and the use of open space in their
the programme officer for the respective areas were invited to share
organisation which financed the their experiences with the WG
design construction of the two markets, members. Some architects from
the National Income Generation private and public offices in the city
Programme (NIGP), invariably argued were also invited.
that this was a decision by the DCC 24 The selected wards were Mwananyamala
management. and Makurumla; Ilala and Tabata;
18 The respondents preferred to remain Ward 14 and Mbagala; in Kinondoni,
anonymous. Ilala, and Temeke Districts, respectively.
19 In a discussion with Mr Michael (WG 25 The amendment was effected through
Co-ordinator) on 24 March 2000 and Government Notice No. 167, 1994.
VIBINDO Secretary General on 28 26 The signatories to the contract include
March 2000, both asserted that WG the City Chairman, the Solicitor, the
morale deteriorated sharply and respective ward and Mtaa leaders
animosity between vendors and the and the corporate body, or private
DCC followed the DCCs decision. individual as the case may be.
20 Discussions with VIBINDO Secretary 27 This refers to, for instance, changes
General and Chairman, 28 March of communal open spaces in Block A
2000. in Sinza and invasion of a school plot
21 Yusuph (2000) reports that because in Magomeni.
of the high charges levied on the stalls 28 Discussions with WG Co-ordinators
erected at Temeke Street market, on 26 March and 28 March 2000.
vendors have abandoned the stalls. 29 Primarily because the grassroots,
Meanwhile, the government-owned including wards, were not represented
newspaper, The Daily News (5 June in the Commission.

86 Development and Cities

30 In a discussion between the author some bureaucrats may shy away
and those who have been closely because of ignorance about the EPM.
involved in the EPM promotion 37 Discussion with the VIBINDO
activities in Dar es Salaam and else- Secretary General, Gaston Kikuwi,
where in Tanzania, they suggested 28 March 2000.
that the strong mandate given to the
Commission, and overall management References
style, contradicted the EPM spirit
(personal communication from Burian, B. (2000) Sustainable Development
B.B.K. Majani, A.G. Kyessi, and T.J. in an Urban Tanzania Context,
Nnkya). presented at N-AERUS international
31 This may happen despite the fact that workshop, Cities of the South:
national legislation requires that civil Sustainable for Whom, 3-6 May,
servants remain non-partisan in Geneva
executing their duties. Dar es Salaam City Commission (1996)
32 Majani and Halla (1999), discussing Summary of the Proceedings of the
solid waste management in Dar es Workshop on Preparation of the
Salaam, reiterate this, noting that one Strategic Urban Development Plan,
of the pitfalls of the City Commission 15-17 October, Karimjee Hall, Dar es
is that it focuses on short-term results. Salaam
Initially the Commission term was Dar es Salaam City Council (1993)
only one year; later it was extended by Proceedings for the City Consultation
two more years. on Environmental Issues, DCC: Dar
33 This includes interpersonal clashes es Salaam
between the DCC bureaucrats and Kombe, W.J. (1995) Formal and Informal
the SDP staff (personal communi- Land Management in Tanzania: Case
cations from Dr Burian (UASU of Dar es Salaam City, Dortmund:
Co-ordinator), Mr Lubuva (former SPRING Publication, No. 13
City Commission Secretary, now Ilala Kombe, W.J. (1999) The Synthesis of
Municipal Director), and Mr Salewi the Contentious Sustainable Urban
(Engineer, National Income Generation Development Plan (SUDP) Issues,
Programme [NIGP]). working paper prepared for the Dar
34 SDP co-ordinators felt that some of es Salaam City Commission and
the DCC bureaucrats were resentful UASU, Dar es Salaam
of the SDP staff because the latter Majani, B. (2000) Institutionalising
enjoyed better working conditions, Environmental Planning and
despite being junior to them, views Management: The Case of Solid
echoed by some of the former heads Waste Management in Dar es
of departments interviewed. Salaam, doctoral research, University
35 The respondents wished to remain of Dortmund
anonymous. Majani, B. and F. Halla (1999) Innovative
36 The fact that the current generation ways for solid waste management in
of bureaucrats in the local govern- Dar es Salaam: towards stakeholder
ment system was largely trained and partnerships, Habitat International
employed before the EPM was 23(3): 35161
adopted might inhibit the adoption of Post, J. (1997) Urban management in an
changed working practices, while unruly setting, the African case,

Institutionalising the concept of environmental planning and management 87

Third World Planning Review 19(4): UNCHS (1997) Second Evaluation Report
34766 for the Sustainable Dar es Salaam
Rakodi, C. and N. Devas (1993) Managing Project, Nairobi: UNCHS
Fast Growing Cities: New Approaches United Republic of Tanzania (URT)
to Urban Planning and Management (1997) National Employment Policy,
in the Developing World, Harlow: Dar es Salaam: Ministry, Labour and
Longman Youth Development
Rondinelli, Dennis A. (1983) Development Vidler E. and S. Russell (2000) The rise
Projects and Policy Experiments: An and fall of governmentcommunity
Adoptive Approach to Development partnerships for urban development:
Administration, London: Methuen grassroots testimony from Colombo,
SIDO-GTZ (1995) Security of Land Environment and Urbanization 11(12):
Tenure for Informal Sector: A 7386
Proposal Submitted to the Steering Yusuph, K.A. (2000) Relocation of Petty
Committee for the Settlement of Traders, a Strategy for Management
Informal Sector Business, unpublished of Informal Activities in Dar es Salaam
report, Dar es Salaam City: a Case of Temeke Sterio Market,
UNCHS (1995) First Evaluation Report unpublished dissertation, Department
for the Sustainable Dar es Salaam of Urban and Regional Planning, Dar
Project, Nairobi: UNCHS es Salaam: UCLAS

88 Development and Cities

Democracy and social
participation in Latin American
Diego Carrin M.

Democratisation, structural adjustment, state reform (including de-

centralisation), and liberalisation of the economy (including privatisation)
have brought about dramatic changes in the nations, societies, and
cities of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). As central governments
devolve greater responsibilities to them, local governments are obliged
to perform new roles and strengthen their managerial capacity to cope
with increasing urban problems and popular demands. In response
to the states inability to address local problems, there has been a
flourishing of civil society organisations (CSOs) engaging in self-help
initiatives, building social networks and mutual support groups in
order to meet their basic needs (see article by Joseph in this volume;
McCarney 1996). To deepen democracy and promote popular
participation in resolving urban issues calls for clear guiding principles
and methodologies. These should be based on the wealth of experience
Latin American cities have acquired over the years.

Re-reading the context

Within the new global scenario, a series of social, economic, and political
changes have spread across the planet. Modernisation has brought with
it the reorganisation of both capital and the state. This is being achieved
through the so-called flexibilisation of labour, which seeks to eliminate
legal and trade-union-based forms of protection for workers, and
through market deregulation, which seeks to stimulate commercial
activity and allow private business to fix prices and determine the
quality of products.
The state is being reorganised around the redistribution of a series
of functions and responsibilities among non-governmental actors.
Privatisation policies mean that the more profitable functions are being

sold cheaply to large national and multinational companies, while
unprofitable social policies are handed over to municipalities, the
churches, NGOs, and citizens themselves. This is accompanied by the
streamlining of the state, which includes lay-offs as well as reductions
in public spending and investment in the social sector. Meanwhile, the
states repressive apparatus, its mechanisms for controlling the population,
and political patronage networks, remain intact.
The key to this scenario is the process by which national economies are
becoming internationalised. Foreign trade is increasing, and a global
economy is consolidating as transnational corporations grow stronger
and develop new strategies. Countries and cities now depend to a greater
degree on the dynamics and behaviour of the global economy, in which
the movement of capital, information, and physical inputs determine
the patterns of production and consumption. Yet the various macro-
economic adjustments the new rules for local markets and the
dismantling of forms of social protection benefit only a few and bring
about the growing impoverishment of the majority.
Latin America and the Caribbean: an increasingly urban
One component of this scenario in the LAC region is the tendency
towards urbanisation. The region now has more than 500 million
inhabitants (more than Europe), with 70 per cent of them living in
urban areas. Currently, it has 36 cities with populations of over one
million, two of the five largest cities in the world, and eight of the
worlds 50 largest cities. Populations are concentrated in one or two
major cities in each country, but medium-sized cities are growing
The 16,000 municipalities in the LAC region form a highly hetero-
geneous set of cities and towns. Even within countries, cities differ
markedly in size, location, economic and productive functions, history,
culture, and relationships with external environments and markets.
It is thus difficult to speak about the Latin American city. But where
cities differ least is in their concentration of populations whose basic
needs are unmet and whose quality of life is deteriorating. And cities
lack the capacity to receive new population influxes in the short or the
long term.
The phenomenon of urban growth in the midst of economic
recession has meant that cities do not have the necessary resources to

90 Development and Cities

maintain, much less to improve, basic infrastructure and services
(see article by Allen in this Reader). In addition, unemployment is
rising, poverty is growing, private investments have dropped, and the
norms of neighbourliness and co-existence are giving way to various
forms of violence. Meanwhile, low-income groups face increasing
problems of access to housing and urban services. It is no easy matter
to promote equitable, democratic, efficient, and environmentally
sustainable forms of urban development against such a backdrop.

Consolidating democracy and citizenship through

local governments and civil society
A central issue in the current reform of the state involves the transfer
of powers from national to local governments, principally in order to
relieve pressure on national government institutions and to transform
the municipality, assigning it roles and functions so that it can provide
better services. The challenge here is also to transfer decision making,
technical capacity, financial resources, and administrative autonomy
in a way that facilitates democratic management of local affairs.
The problems of Latin American cities create new demands on, and
challenges to, the international community, national governments,
local bodies, and local society. These go beyond current administrative,
technical, and financial policies and capacities for managing urban
development. The challenges require a broadening and strengthening
of the capacities of social organisations and institutions. It is thus
important to recognise the specific competences and dynamics of
national government and municipal institutions, as well as those of
NGOs and communities. Arenas for consultation, co-ordination,
interrelation, and co-operation among all these actors are vital, for it is
here that the conditions and guiding principles necessary for local
development are negotiated.
Guiding principles for local development
Constituting a new realm of sustainable development: The objective
would be to balance human welfare with nature, based on the values
of democracy, equality before the law, and social justice, for present
and future generations; without discrimination based on gender,
creed, ethnicity, economic, social, or political status.
Broadening the democratic management of cities: This would entail
forms of planning, building, operating, and governing cities that are
based on the participation of and control by all social actors and local

Democracy and social participation in Latin American cities 91

social institutions, where the common good would prevail, with
respect for local cultural values and attention to the need for long-
term sustainability.
Constructing citizenship: Inhabitants and their organisations would
exercise their rights and would fulfil their obligations in full.
Decisions would be based on consensus, multilateral dialogue,
negotiation, and political will, in a context of transparency, public
consultation, and adequate information and knowledge of the
affairs related to the management of the locality.

Local governments, democracy, and citizenship

Local governments are the institution of government closest to the
everyday lives and problems of citizens, and they exercise partial
governance over the city.1 This points to the need to broaden and
strengthen citizenship as a starting point for deepening democracy,
while at the same time assisting the municipality in managing the
affairs of the city. It is in the meeting place between citizens and the
state that progress can be made in building broader forms of democratic
government, that is, good government. It is, therefore, vital that the
municipality is strengthened through effective decentralisation and de-
concentration, and through the existence of a free and active civil
society (Rodrguez and Winchester 1996).
NGOs and popular organisations: initiating processes and influencing
policies the quality of life in cities is not a matter which only involves the
state or which is exclusively conditioned by the market. In fact, civil society
has exercised the right to intervene in the city. (Ediciones Sur 1996: 7)

Resolving the problems of cities and the urban habitat in Latin America
is enormously difficult within traditional frameworks of government
practice and formal market mechanisms. Bureaucracy, corruption,
political patronage, and lack of creativity on the part of the state have
been obstacles to addressing the needs of low-income groups. The
private sector, because of its profit-seeking logic, is not geared towards
low-income populations. Popular and grassroots actors have, therefore,
developed their own strategies and mechanisms for fulfilling these
needs and for some years now, NGOs, community-based organisations,
and other popular organisations have played a role in habitat-related

92 Development and Cities

While acknowledging the limited reach and impact of their
programmes, NGO-supported popular processes often reinforce the
principle of:
ensuring that projects contribute to the development of autonomous
social subjects, capable of representing themselves, capable of promoting
their own interests in aspects which concern them, capable of interacting
from a favourable position with other actors and agents each of which
responds to its own logic. (Unda 1996)

In the neighbourhoods of Latin Americas cities, social organisations
and non-governmental organisations do many things: they design and
build housing, roads, streets, and pathways; they install potable water,
sewage, and electrical services; they renovate neighbourhoods; they
confront emergencies earthquakes, floods, economic crisis, civil wars;
they attend to food and health needs; they give courses and technical
training in the development and management of socially oriented projects;
they formulate proposals and develop studies; they revitalise
neighbourhood-level economic networks; they hold meetings, broadcast
the problems of the city, demand solutions, collaborate in forming groups, in
linking institutions, in promoting spaces for multilateral dialogue and
negotiation; they design, articulate, and manage socially oriented projects
together with governmental agencies and institutions; they incorporate
public and other available resources; and they seek to develop replicable
processes. (Ediciones Sur 1996: 36)

The thousands of efforts of this kind around the world show that it is
indeed possible for society to move forward, serving to initiate genuine
political processes and influence public policy. Such efforts often
inspire others and are replicated, transferred, and disseminated. As
such, they offer a ray of hope. But to achieve their full potential, these
organisations must be free to set up and initiate actions for and with
residents, and to have the full moral support of local authorities in
doing so.

Democracy and social participation in Latin American cities 93

Challenges for Latin American cities: obstacles and
In moving towards local development that is guided by the principles
listed above, Latin American cities will face a series of major challenges
in order to:
alleviate poverty;
raise the efficiency and competitive strength of the urban
improve urban environmental quality;
develop and consolidate democratic governance;
increase the efficiency of urban management and service delivery;
strengthen respect for cultural values and diversity.
Several major obstacles lie in the path, but there are also opportunities
that may help us to build a new kind of city, and both the obstacles and
the opportunities demand creativity in our handling of them. The
obstacles include:
the fact that neither urban planning, improvisation, nor
clientelistic practices have been successful;
shortage of financial resources in local governments, high
turnover of local government officials, political and economic
instability, and corruption;
dreams of a city that we cannot build and manage (e.g. Singapore,
San Francisco, Barcelona);
property speculation spurred by liberalisation and deregulation.
The opportunities include the following:
the democratisation process occurring in the region may help to
strengthen local governments and increase community
decentralisation may deepen democracy, given the emergence of
local government as an important actor;
existing social capital in LAC societies may introduce innovative
ways of dealing with urban problems;
globalisation might favour those LAC cities with a comparative
advantage in the world market.

94 Development and Cities

An alternative approach to managing Latin American
The city is an integrated and complex system, whose management,
among other things, has to deal with issues of building, development,
and maintenance. How urban growth and development take place and
are managed, and the availability of adequate land for residential areas
and the provision of housing and services, are matters of collective
social concern, and are not the monopoly of the political and intellectual
Peoples participation in planning and in decision-making
processes is indispensable to handling complex urban affairs in a
democratic fashion. As we often see in Latin American cities, unilateral
decisions are the basis of an inegalitarian and authoritarian society and
need to be addressed head-on.
Among the greatest obstacles to be overcome are the perceptions
and influence of what we might call the economic pragmatists.
Particularly misguided is the view that social infrastructure and
services in human settlements are non-productive investments, and
so should be made only if resources are remaining after productive
investments have been made. The simplistic use of econometric
models, based on the primacy of economic growth, obscures the complex
intersectoral connections in the development of human settlements.
In so doing, such positions diminish the possibility of placing human
settlement processes at the centre of social and economic change.
Increasing poverty is one of the LAC regions greatest problems
today. Neither poverty, hunger, nor the lack of housing and services,
constitutes a problem in itself. The problem arises when hunger is not
followed by access to enough food; when the need for shelter is not
satisfied by good-quality houses; when basic facilities are either
inadequate in themselves, or in insufficient supply. The contradiction
between needs and their satisfaction is seen in the poverty that is
caused through the exploitation of low-income groups. It is impossible
to overcome urban problems in such a situation. Key structural reforms
need to be introduced to allow new initiatives to develop. These need to
address: the reorientation of national priorities to resolving the
problems affecting poor people; reforms to develop the democratic
management of cities; mechanisms to increase popular participation
in the cities; institutions, politics, and social action for processes of
decentralisation to the grassroots; and establishing a just equilibrium

Democracy and social participation in Latin American cities 95

between participation of the state, the private sector, and civil society.
These issues are discussed in greater detail below.
An urgent change in priorities: the fight against poverty
The challenge we face in the LAC region can be met only if we face it
fully. This means urgently shifting priorities towards attending to the
substantive problems and needs of Latin Americas low-income
groups. First and foremost, the problem is poverty. If we fail to address
this, the prospects for strengthening democracy will disappear and
existing social unrest will certainly rise. Confronting and resolving the
problem of poverty will have to be sustained by changes in four areas,
each constituting a pillar of support to a new democratic approach to
improving the living conditions of the urban poor. The result of such
changes will be a city for all, which assures egalitarian access to land,
housing, and services not just a watered-down and formalistic version of
Towards democratic city management
In Latin America, the shadow of totalitarianism is ever present. This
constitutes a threat to democratic processes, which are already difficult
enough to get off the ground. Totalitarian regimes are seldom
concerned with solving the problems of poor people; rather, they usually
reproduce a more intense and generalised form of poverty, which may
be witnessed in the form of increasing social and spatial segregation in
the cities. Such segregation perpetuates differential access to land,
housing, and services, according to whether one lives in the legal or the
illegal city. Reversing these trends requires far more than the right to
elect government representatives. In Latin America, the ballot has, to
date, offered little alternative to vertical governmental structures and
procedures that are usually both bureaucratic and lack mechanisms for
popular participation. Indeed, low-income and marginalised groups do
not feel their interests are represented by national or local representatives.
The responsibility for democratising society overall, and the
management of cities in particular, ultimately lies with popular
organisations, provided that their autonomy and dynamics are
respected by government. However, democratic management at the
local level also requires some complementarity on the part of national
institutions. Municipal governments, with popular support, will need
appropriate levers and instruments for demanding that central
governments assure them the means to secure resources for public

96 Development and Cities

works, service provision, and effective popular participation in regional
and national structures of governance.
Other aspects of complementary democratisation will be needed
in relationships between majorities and minorities; between local
governments and peoples organisations; among mayors, officers, and
councillors; and between the executive body of local government and
its legislative structure. If it is not possible to converse and debate
openly with all local actors then the advance of democracy will be an
uphill struggle.
Popular participation
Strong social organisation is indispensable to the democratic
management of cities. This often begins with low-income groups
organising around efforts to improve their material conditions. But
processes such as these can and often do promote broader
democratisation within society. The chances of this happening are
better when local authorities and popular organisations develop a
mutual appreciation and respect for the others field of action. This can
be promoted best by establishing a legal framework for promoting and
protecting the existence and functioning of local civil society
organisations, developing the political will within local authorities to
work with them, and making it possible for CSOs to access the
resources they need to participate more fully in decision-making
processes. An indicator of success in democratising local governance
would be CSO participation in defining urban policy priorities after
municipal elections. Finally, democratisation is a process of building
up social dynamics, starting from the base of society the
community and ascending to the national level. But local-level
democracy cannot be established without it first existing at the
national level.
Decentralisation from a popular perspective
Popular participation must operate within a properly decentralised
state if it is to contribute to democratic urban management. The
common argument that the decentralisation of the state will, in and
of itself, enhance democratic urban management and peoples
participation is based on a myth. Recent experiences in Latin America
show that local societies and cities often remain in the power of
traditional local lites and national authorities even after some forms
of decentralisation have been implemented.

Democracy and social participation in Latin American cities 97

From a community perspective, it is imperative that different local
groups (neighbourhood or community associations, local planning
groups, etc.) are capable of expressing their demands and defining
alternative approaches to their own problems. Local governments play
a central role in this, given that they are the nearest form of power with
which community groups will have contact. But, in order for them to
channel popular participation, their structures must be adapted to
allow and promote such participation and to be sensitive to the
demands emerging from it. Above all, the kind of decentralisation
process we need is one that distributes power, decisions, and allocation
of resources democratically and on a long-term basis.
Democratic decentralisation means, for example, rethinking external
debt, especially debt contracted by local and national governments to
provide housing and services. If new loans are needed because of a lack
of local financial resources, these should be made according to local
and national priorities and under terms that do not cause social
dislocation to the majority low-income population (see the article by
Kundu in this volume).
Decentralisation has the potential to fragment the initiatives either
of the people or of the local authorities. For example, the creation of too
many local authorities or agencies could lead to ineffective planning
and a lack of co-ordination regarding broader regional or national
problems. Thus, what is needed is a dual perspective in which local
problems and actions are approached with an understanding of macro-
level context. Decentralisation should be based on the recognition that
some problems cannot be resolved at the local level alone but have
national or global ramifications: for instance, inflation, technological
change, mass media, external debt, and international co-operation.
A new equilibrium between state, private sector, and
community-based actors
Whether poor people can acquire assured access to land, housing, and
basic urban services, and attain better living conditions, depends on
achieving a more equitable equilibrium among three interdependent
sets of social actors: the state, the private, and the popular (community)
In highly simplified and idealised terms, the three sectors concern
themselves with the following functions. The state is societys regulatory
agent, so it has to be strong enough to manage the economy and
international relations, guarantee social peace, and provide basic

98 Development and Cities

services while allowing broad participation of all social groups in state
structures and operations. Among its regulatory functions, the most
important is to strengthen democracy. The private sectors major
concern is to earn profits and its importance to the national economy
cannot be underestimated. However, in recent decades its forms of
operation have tended to undermine the capacity of the state to mitigate
the unequal distribution of wealth. The community sector, which until
now has been marginalised from decision making, has demonstrated
an increasing dynamism and capacity to offer solutions to societys
problems. From its position of economic and social disadvantage, this
sector presses for democratic development processes.
With the state increasingly adopting the private sectors orientation
towards profitability as a criterion for public investment, the possibility
of providing social services to the broad majority is diminishing daily.
Thus, housing and urban facilities for poor people continue to
deteriorate at an alarming rate. So, too, do the prospects for integrating
those who live and work in the informal economy into a comprehensive
programme of social development.
Overcoming this persistent injustice is the collective responsibility
of the state, civil society, and the private sector. But this must begin with
the states reassertion of its central role in planning national and local
development. Without this there is no way to attain a healthy balance
among different social groups and their interests. Harnessing the
market for social development does not require transforming market
relations. But it does require overcoming the markets incapacity to
distribute wealth equitably enough to allow low-income groups to earn
sufficient to pay for the services and facilities to which, as citizens, they
have rights.
Civil society, and especially organisations of low-income groups,
must also be given a role in planning and decision making. At present,
the conditions for their effective participation in such activities are
often weak. Meeting their own survival needs absorbs most of the time
and energy of poor people. Both improvements in living conditions and
the establishment of more direct channels of participation in decision
making are precursors to achieving a better equilibrium among the
state, civil society, and the market.

Democracy and social participation in Latin American cities 99

Criteria for popular participation in community
development and management programmes
When designing and implementing elements of popular participation
in community development and management programmes some
basic criteria need to be followed:
Sense of totality: Consider the city as well as the social group as a
whole. Initiatives that are conceived and developed as isolated
actions reproduce individualism at the community level and a
dislocation between policies and actions more generally.
Political sense: Consider the general political scenario. Programmes
or projects that are conceived and designed without a careful
analysis of the political context might fail because of unanticipated
external constraints.
Sense of autonomy: Support efforts of the community to acquire
capacities and establish conditions for making autonomous and
critical decisions about what matters to them. Support training
processes that transfer knowledge, which is a step towards gaining
Sense of reality: Avoid paternalistic and artificial conditions when
conceiving and developing programmes or projects. The likelihood
that a popular housing process will succeed lies precisely in the
degree of long-term self-sufficiency that can be developed by the
group involved.
Sense of continuity: Understand that the housing processes of poor
people are endless and changeable. Interventions should be based
on an understanding of the notion of process that is embodied in the
development of popular neighbourhoods.
Sense of respect: Be extremely respectful of peoples commitments
and behaviour. External agents, including progressive NGOs, are
involved only temporarily; the people living in the community are
permanent. If external agents are to work in a community they
should respect the nature and the dynamics of the people, their
organisations, and their leaders.

100 Development and Cities

As the urban habitat deteriorates, so too does the quality of life for its
residents. The poor majority are most severely affected by the quality
of their habitat so, if we wish to improve their situation, we need an
integrated approach to improving their habitat. This requires nothing
less than building and maintaining an equitable and democratic city, a
city that makes healthy living conditions equally accessible to everyone
through effective participatory decision making.
To realise this utopian city for all that offers access to land, housing,
and urban services on an egalitarian basis, depends on there being
genuine democracy throughout society as a whole and in the
management of urban issues. In the third millennium, most human
beings will live in cities and towns; thus we must learn to live and let
live. Twenty-first-century human society will require democratic and
governable peoples who are prosperous and efficient, who express
solidarity and justice, who are healthy and who support life, who feel
safe and respect the rights of others, who share collective identities and
a creative culture. Society has a historic responsibility to construct cities
and towns that meet these conditions. Creating the social and political
will to enable everyone to join in efforts to achieve these ideals is the
task ahead.

Note References
1 Governance is used to refer to the Ediciones Sur (1996) Patrimonio societal
way in which power is exercised in a e intervenciones urbanas. Trece
society. The concept of governance experiencias en Amrica Latina,
recognises not only that authorities Santiago de Chile: Ediciones Sur
govern society, rather that they are McCarney, P. (ed.) (1996) The Changing
part of a complex network of inter- Nature of Local Government in
actions between institutions and Developing Countries, Center for
groups. Governance is that network Urban and Community Studies,
of interactions. The citizenry is Toronto: University of Toronto Press
established when people are Rodrguez, A. and L. Winchester (1996)
incorporated into and actively El municipio: lugar de la ciudadana,
influence this network (Rodrguez in Revista Ciudad Alternativa no. 12,
and Winchester 1996). Centro de Investigaciones, Quito:
Unda, Mario (1996) Las redes, los lazos
y los hilos sueltos, Quito: CIUDAD

Democracy and social participation in Latin American cities 101

Sustainable development and
democracy in the megacities
Jaime Joseph

In looking at sustainable development from the perspective of the cities

of the South, we shall focus on Lima. We believe that the megacities in
the Third World are a thorn in the side of strategies for building
democracy and sustainable, human development. Indeed, the development
occuring in these megacities seems the least human and sustainable.
What can sustainable mean in such a context? Our concern here is to
find ways in which community-based organisations (CBOs) can
continue to respond to basic material needs, but in such a way that their
efforts are part of sustainable and integrated development processes
and not limited to poverty relief and environmental clean-up projects.
This concern is at once a social, political, and an ethical enterprise.1
The first part of this paper reflects on the concepts and theoretical
framework for sustainable development in the contemporary world,
particularly in the light of the impact of neo-liberalism and poverty on
the minds and hearts of people who live in Southern megacities. We
argue that democracy and development must be inseparable if
development is to be sustainable and fully human.
In the second part, we suggest that a central problem in the search
for human sustainable development is fragmentation, as peoples
capacities and needs are treated as separate and unrelated issues.
Moreover, we argue that, in the megacities, a democratic approach to
development must be decentralised to the areas where most of the
urban poor actually live. We end by reviewing some initiatives in Lima
that might well inform strategies which would allow us to break out of
our crisis and to promote and sustain processes of democratisation and

Sustainable: for whom and how?

The concept of sustainability as applied to development has a history.
In 1983 the General Assembly of the United Nations set up the World

102 Development and Cities

Commission on Environment and Development. Four years later,
under the presidency of Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Commission
published Our Common Future, which defined sustainable development
as a development which satisfies the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to satisfy their own
necessities. The essence of sustainable seems to be to limit development.
Instead of more is better, a slogan was launched claiming that
sufficient is better. What was not clear was what mechanisms who
and how should be used to limit development. This is not principally
a technical question but rather an ethical and a political problem that
still remains unsolved.
The 1992 Earth Summit was organised as alarms were going off
and they continue to sound all of them telling the planet that
resources are limited, especially the resources that underpin our
present model of development. What is even more alarming is that we
may destroy the very conditions necessary for human life even before
the resources run out. Global warming, holes in the ozone layer, and
overpopulation are a threat to life in general. At the Earth Summit, 179
countries, North and South, made a commitment to construct their
own Agenda 21 for sustainable development. And since then, 1300
local authorities have responded by designing their own action plans
(ICLEI 1996).
The First World seems to be pressuring the Third World to do the
limiting: reduce population, preserve rain forests, conserve water, etc..
It is not easy, then, to reflect on sustainability from the perspective of
the urban poor who make up a large part of Southern megacities and
for whom many basic needs remain unmet. There is in fact some
discomfort with the topic, as sustainability is in many ways an induced
concern in urban poor communities who are struggling to satisfy
the basic material needs essential to their own personal and social
Environment and sustainability are two of the many urgent issues
or concerns that have sprung up in the North and have migrated to the
South. In addition to environment, we have become aware of gender,
human rights, especially those of children, citizens rights, workers
rights, the freedom of sexual preferences. All of these, which indeed
are essential and urgent world concerns, have become part of an
agenda in the particular historical context of free-market, capitalist
development in the West. Without denying their importance, we must
ask ourselves if these issues mean the same in the South as in the North.

Sustainable development and democracy in the megacities 103

This precaution perhaps appears mistaken when environment and the
limits of our planet are such universal concerns. However, it was not so
long ago that the countries in the South were described as
underdeveloped, and it then seemed quite obvious that they had to
make efforts to move ahead on the same development road the North
had followed. Today, we want to make sure that sustainability is an
essential component of our development process and not either an add-
on or a limiting factor.
It is difficult to imagine that the West could have achieved its own
capitalist economic development if from the outset the emerging
productive, financial, and commercial classes had been obliged to limit
their use of natural resources, avoid pollution, pay just wages, provide
safe and healthy working conditions, respect the rights of women and
children, and not exploit foreign workers or workers from particular
ethnic groups. The Third World peoples, trying to move ahead on the
road to development, are being asked to carry the additional load of
these major issues. This apparently puts the Southern countries, and
especially their cities, in a bind: either we must accept our under-
development and deprive ourselves of the goods which other societies
enjoy in excess, or we will inevitably bring about the destruction of the
planet. Obviously we must find a third option.
This special issue of Development in Practice is dedicated to reflecting
on this gap between the accepted meanings of sustainable develop-
ment in cities, both in the North and in the South. This gap does not
reside principally in differences of definition but rather in the different
contexts, processes, and systems in the North and the South.
Change the terms of reference: a new and ethical approach to
It is now clear that the neo-liberal model of economic development is
creating more poverty and widening the poverty gap, as well as proving
incapable of curbing the overexploitation of the planet and its
resources. The UNDP 1996 Human Development Report tells us that 89
countries are worse off economically than they were a decade earlier.
The New York Times article on that report (dated 15 July 1996) headlined
its story: UN Survey Finds World RichPoor Gap Widening (Morris
In the face of this undeniable reality, a new item was tacked on to the
neo-liberal model: poverty relief and redistribution measures. It might
even be argued that the nation-state, so weakened by transnational

104 Development and Cities

economics and globalisation, has survived and even prospered in its
ability to relate to (or manipulate) the growing numbers of poor
populations in Third World countries thanks to its role in administrating
these programmes. For example, in September 1996, the head of the
Inter-American Development Bank organised a forum to study the
Washington Consensus in which its author, John Williamson, recognised
that the measures had often been applied too strictly as if following a
neo-liberal bible. He underlined the importance of the state in providing
technological support, credit, information, and, above all, redistribution.
Grassroots organisations have been quite successful in reducing the
negative effects of the neo-liberal model and the structural adjustments
which have been imposed on all countries to put them on the
reductionist development track. But as David Morris (1996) has stated,
it is not enough to add a dollop of humanitarianism to orthodox
development policies already in existence, as seems to be what is
happening currently among official donors. Unfortunately, structural
adjustment with a human face implies that rapid GNP per capita
growth remains the basic objective, and social improvement must be a
by-product. If development is to enhance human well-being, it must be
designed in such a way that improvements that raise the quality of life
indicators are actively interacting with, even driving, the strategy for
economic growth. We would add that it is not enough to add the
adjective sustainable to the same market-driven model.
Ethics and development
Ethics and development is not a new topic. The discussion is at least as
old as Weber, who was writing in the late 1950s. Denis Goulet (1995) is
one of the recent pioneers in this field. In South America, Manfred
Max-Neef was one of the most important intellectuals to make clear that
economic development was not the same as human development, that
having (material goods) was not the same as being (a full human being).
Development refers to persons not to objects The best development
process will be that which permits raising the quality of life of the
persons (Max-Neef et al. 1986: 25, authors translation).
Amartya Sen also centred the strategies of human development in
the development of the human capacities, freely determined (Sen
1983). If in the last analysis, we consider development as the expansion
of the capacities of the population to achieve activities freely chosen and
valued, then it would be entirely inappropriate to consider human
beings as instruments of economic development. (Sen 1999: 600)

Sustainable development and democracy in the megacities 105

Sen (1997) has stressed that ethical principles and human values are
essential for development, pointing out that while Adam Smith argued
that self-interest was behind the motivation for interchange, he never
said this interest was enough. Confidence, interest and concern for
others, what Smith called sympathy, generosity, and public spirit,
were also essential. Sen (1997: 2) goes on to argue that, Capitalism
could not have survived on seeking personal benefits alone. Values are
essential to the process from the very beginning.
Ethical and human concerns often enter the scene after the event;
once structural adjustment has happened and the damage in terms of
poverty and marginalisation has been done. We do not want an
approach to development and ethics that is hemmed in by the very
ideology that is at the basis of the crisis itself, for this will inevitably
mean that ethics and human values only enter the scene at the end
of the process. They will be used to give a facelift to and to curb
neo-liberalisms chain of negative effects: poverty and inequality,
unemployment, environmental destruction, exclusion, violence,
anomie, and authoritarianism. Our question is whether and how ethical
principles can help us break out of the ideological chains in which we
have wrapped our approach to development, and replace this with new,
effective, and sustainable approaches.
Democracy and development
Sustainable for whom? is a question not so much about what type
or model of development is pursued, but how development decisions
are made and who makes them. We understand sustainable as
comprising more than the environmental goals. The Oxford English
Dictionary defines it as capable of being upheld or defended. So, how
can development which must be freely determined, as Sen says be
upheld in a diverse and conflict-ridden urban society? According to
Marcuse (1998: 105):
Sustainability is a treacherous [ formulation of goals] for urban policy
because it suggests the possibility of a conflict-free consensus on
policies, whereas, in fact, vital interests do conflict: it will take more
than simply better knowledge and clearer understanding to produce

Sustainability, like participation, can be a camouflaged trap. Both

terms highly respectable can be used to maintain the status quo,
focusing on particular issues and covering up deep-rooted, structural

106 Development and Cities

problems. When sustainability is applied as a limiting principle, and
participation is limited to poverty relief programmes, these concepts
can hide the authoritarian hands and the power behind the control of
major decisions in development, and cover up the real nature of the
model itself.

The megacity as a scenario for sustainable

From my own point of view both personal and professional one of
the important positive results of the Earth Summit has been to place
cities, especially Third World cities, back on the agendas of nation-
states and multilateral agencies. In the Manual for Local Planning of
Agenda 21, 1996 of the International Council for Local Environmental
Initiatives (ICLEI), Elizabeth Dowdeswell, then Executive Director of
the UN Programme for Environment, pointed out that there are 213
cities in the Third World with more than one million inhabitants. The
future of cities, she says, will increasingly determine not only the
destiny of the nations but also of the planet. (ICLEI 1996: iii)
This is an important change since the main concentrations of people
in the Third World, especially the megacities, that had been pushed
to the margins of national and international concerns, are getting back
on to the agenda. This is not so much owing to a concern for the
massive and endemic poverty and injustice present in these cities.
Unfortunately, there has been a common belief that everyone who lives
in a megacity somehow benefits from the concentration of wealth and
power found there, and so does not need priority attention.2 Our cities
are receiving attention now because they are a threat to the planet. Their
demands for services are a threat to sustainability and therefore we
need an approach entirely different for planning and providing
services (ICLEI 1996). We might say that the urban poor are getting on
to the agenda through the back door but, whatever the reason, it is
important that they be on that agenda. However, we would argue for a
more positive view of the megacities, a view grounded in the potential
and the practices of the urban poor.
Maurice Strong, president of the Earth Council, expresses a more
positive approach to our Third World cities. [U]rban areas present the
concentration of our worst social, economic and environmental
problems, and also offer opportunities for some of the most effective
solutions. (ICLEI 1996) He refers to social, economic, and environmental

Sustainable development and democracy in the megacities 107

problems, but does not mention the essential and key aspect, which is
building democratic politics.3 Our argument here follows a simple but
solid logic. First, it will only be possible to attend to the needs and
demands of poor people with justice and equality if ethical values
predominate in the basic decision-making process. Second, that in our
complex modern societies, the only way in which ethical principles can
be the foundation of decision making is through democratic politics.
Yet, nowhere in the Third World has the social and political basis for
sustainable development been so weakened as in our megacities. For
instance, in Lima, especially in the low-income areas, development
initiatives are reduced to survival tactics: nutrition, employment at any
cost, health, and security in the face of violence and delinquency. Thus,
extreme individualism tends to override the ethical considerations
such as justice and equality and respect for cultural values, especially
solidarity, that were always an essential element of community-based
organisations (CBOs). Furthermore, the direct intervention of central
government agencies and the overt manipulation of poor people in poverty
relief programmes are undermining the basis for democratic politics.
Fragmented dreams and fragmented people in the megacity
We would argue that fragmentation is a growing problem for human
sustainable development and for the democratic political systems that
can make such development possible (Joseph 2000). Our concern is
therefore with the scenarios and practices that can help to overcome
the widespread fragmentation that we find even in our own strategies
and programmes. For example, the survival of small businesses often
depends on child labour, the denial of social benefits, and extremely
long hours. Programmes devoted to building citizenship and
promoting civic participation or local democracy often leave aside the
concern for the contents of the decisions made (Joseph 2000). Such
compartmentalisation has fragmented these issues and closed them
off from any possibility of more synergetic strategies. In so doing, it has
also closed them off from integral and sustainable approaches.
Of even greater concern is that this fragmentation of issues affects
the social actors themselves. Each group or organisation, often each
person, has their own specific area of interest, and this has seriously
weakened the urban popular organisations. By focusing on a single
issue and not trying to build common interests and goals, CBOs are
less likely to interact and enter into dialogue with organisations which
have different, and perhaps conflicting, interests. Such an outlook

108 Development and Cities

leads to conflict, distrust, and a zero-sum logic. In addition, issue-
centred programmes tend to be confined to the short term, in an
immediate response to essential needs. The longer or wider perspective
that is necessary for development to be sustainable is therefore lost. The
resulting sensation of being defeated weakens the vision and the will
on which sustainable development strategies depend.
It is often said that the grassroots organisations have disappeared.
This is simply not true. In fact, with structural adjustment, the number
and types of such organisations have grown, especially in the cities.
New organisations have sprung up to face, collectively, problems that
previously had been solved privately, by individuals or in the family:
food, health, and employment, among others. Similarly, new organisations
have been formed to cover responsibilities that the downsized state is
unable or unwilling to face: environment, security, and even criminal
However, grassroots organisations have lost much of their capacity
to relate to and co-ordinate with different sectors. In the past, various
CBOs in Lima were co-ordinated through the central Neighborhood
Committee. Previously, such co-ordination took place at a political level
(urban popular confederations worked with trade unions and peasant
movements) and CBOs were thus involved with political parties and
political campaigns. With the weakening of political parties and the
virtual breakdown of the democratic political systems, CBOs no longer
work together in the same way. They have lost the common ground
explicit paradigms and political scenarios upon which common
proposals, common interests, and common values and principles can
be built. They have also lost their power to influence public opinion and
political decisions.
NGOs have also been part of this fragmentation of issues and actors,
partly in response to accusations of being merely the tool of radical
political groups (Joseph 2000). Let us mention just a few of the
problems and traps that NGO strategies must grapple with. For one,
we must address the basic question posed by contributors to this
special issue: whose sustainable development? In other words, is it
possible democratically to build a common ethical basis for human
development when dealing with such diverse cultures, ethnic groups,
and religions? This is a classic problem in modern ethics and political
philosophy. The most effective form of ethical domination today is the
imposition of the one-thought world, the pense unique that has been
spread around the globe (Joseph 2000). The increasing respect for

Sustainable development and democracy in the megacities 109

individual freedoms and rights to choice seems to be leading to chaos,
violence, and anomie. However, on the other end of the ethical
spectrum, the greater risk is that ethical principles, values, and norms
are imposed on people along with the common good supposedly
represented by neo-liberalism. Or, where the neo-liberal model has not
been fully successful, authoritarian or fundamentalist regimes are
trying to impose their own alternative ethical systems. Is there a real
basis for building a common good that can avoid the risks of anomie,
imposition by the powerful, or the tyranny of the majority in a
democratic system, as was feared by so many liberal thinkers?
A second major trap this one more on the political level is often
found in strategies designed to approach poverty relief and environ-
mental programmes through different forms of participatory democracy
for local development. On the social level we face other problems as we
seek to establish a more global strategy of development and democracy.
Increasing, massive, and prolonged poverty as well as the widening gap
between rich and poor, tend to weaken peoples moral fibre and to
encourage a savage individualism. The poor, especially those living
in the megacities, have absorbed much of this neo-liberal discourse. At
the same time, however, they are well aware of the tremendous
disadvantages they face and know that it is impossible for them to
compete in a market which is free or liberal only in name.
An essential difference between the world of the urban poor 20 years
ago and their world today is that the people, and their political and social
organisations, were then on the rise, were building their cities, and
were part of a social and political movement that sought to change the
world. Today, much of this vital force has been lost, and there is a
growing feeling of defeat, of the sheer impossibility of getting out of
this hole through ones own efforts.
Poverty and exclusion, limited democracy and authoritarianism, as
well as social, cultural, and ethical fragmentation are the central
problems we must face in order to move ahead towards sustainable
human development. But how and in what scenarios can ethical
principles be discussed and developed in such a way that they can guide
the development process? How can this be done in a democratic system
so that the tyranny of the majority or the manipulation by powerful
minorities can be checked and overcome? How can a planned process
of human development be made to work in an adverse economic and
political context? In particular, how and in what scenarios can people
who are immersed in poverty and excluded from most forms of power

110 Development and Cities

in an increasingly unequal and unjust social system become vigorous
social and political actors? We are faced with a triple task: to consolidate
the individuals and their organisations, which are the point of departure
and the goal of any human development process; to place ethical,
human values at the centre of the development process; and to build a
democratic political system which can make these principles effective.
Our search takes us to the Third World megacity.
Megacities of the South
Megacity is a concept that can be understood in different ways. From
the European context, Peter Hall defines it as an urban agglomeration
of ten or more millions of inhabitants, and points out that the megacity
is growing in importance in developing countries (Hall 1998). In 1960,
only 9 of the 19 megacities were in developing countries. Now, this is
where 50 of the worlds 60 megacities are to be found. However,
although the number of inhabitants is an important factor in the
definition, we believe that it is neither the only one, nor the most
important. The megacity draws our attention because of its impact on
society, development, and the state.
There is another important difference between most of the megacities
in Third World countries and the modern megacity. Modernity has not
only produced globalised cities linked through the highways of
information networks (Castells 1996), but a different type of megacity
has started to appear, which is more an urban agglomerate than a city.
These agglomerates do not integrate the urban population, but are
instead a physical expression of exclusion and disintegration. Such
disintegrated and segregated cities are more common in poor countries,
though there are growing indications that the megacities in the North
are facing similar problems that weaken the possibilities of consolidating
a democratic political system at the service of development.
Some analysts go further, and feel that we are witnessing the death
of the city as defined by Jordi Borja:
... that physical, political and cultural complex, European and
Mediterranean, but also American and Asian, which we have characterised
in our ideology and in our values as a concentration
of population and activity, a social and functional mixture, the ability of
self-government and a place of symbolic identification and civic
participation. City as encounter, exchange, city that means culture
and commerce. City as a place and not a simple space for flows
(of traffic and people). (Borja 1997: 2, authors translation)

Sustainable development and democracy in the megacities 111

Lima, the capital of Peru, is an example of a megacity in the process
of disintegration. It is a megacity, not in terms of numbers, but
because it concentrates a large population in both relative and absolute
terms. It has over 7 million inhabitants, representing one third of
Perus total population and 44 per cent of its urban population. It also
concentrates economic powers (production, finance, commerce),
information, and political powers, something that had increased over
the ten years of the authoritarian rgime of Fujimori. However, in
comparison with modern megacities in the North, or the global
megacities, Lima is not an urban centre that links and integrates either
its own population or that of the other regions of Peru. This is an
important factor in explaining why the movements for decentralisation
have anti-Lima overtones and often are explicitly opposed to the
CBOs and sustainable development
The question about sustainable human development is particularly
complex in the context of a disintegrating urban agglomeration like
Lima. For the last 20 years, a period of political, social, and economic
crisis in most Third World countries, of structural adjustment and the
one-thought world, our NGO Centro Alternativa focused its strategies
on the popular urban CBOs. It is well known that Limas urban poor
have organised and found solutions even if at the survival level to
their basic material needs. In a real sense, the inhabitants of Limas
barriadas, or poor neighbourhoods, have built their city.
However, the situation in the megacities in the Third World has
changed, as has the reality of the popular urban organisations. These
changes are what led the United Nations Research Institute for Social
Development (UNRISD) and the United Nations Volunteers (UNV)
to ask us to participate in a study of the situation of the CBOs in
the megacities. The purpose was to evaluate CBOs potential for
participating with local governments in integral, sustainable
development processes.
Our study (Joseph 1999) confirmed our basic strategy (and option)
to work with the urban CBOs and enabled us to fine-tune our strategies
for moving towards sustainable development in Lima, building on the
strengths of the people and their organisations, but not ignoring the
increasing obstacles to reaching our goals. We are currently trying
to refine a decentralised approach to development and government in
the megacity.

112 Development and Cities

Here we can only briefly summarise the positive aspects of the
urban organisations, which have demonstrated great creativity in
solving their basic material needs. This was the case from the very
beginning of the urban expansion around metropolitan Lima in the
early 1950s, in what are now known as the cones north, east, and
south. The urban squatters organised every stage in developing their
habitat: invasion, urban design, basic services, and legalisation. There
has been much praise, and rightly so, of the solidarity and co-operation
which made this achievement possible. In these scenarios, women
began to play a central role in community life and later in political life.
Womens organisations, even more than the family, were the starting
point for addressing gender issues in a comprehensive manner.
The following decades (196080) were also very vibrant in both the
social and political arenas. The workers movements grew in number
and strength due to industrial expansion and to the support initially
given by the military dictatorship to labour unions between 1968 and
1975. The peasant movement experienced similar growth and
strengthening when the takeovers of land from the haciendas
(large land-holdings) were followed by the agrarian reform. The
popular urban organisations were also federated in Lima and at a
national level. All of these social movements were part of a growing
political activity, especially on the part of left and popular parties such
as the various Marxist groups and the APRA party. The popular
organisations seemed to be part of a movement that would lead to a
more just model of human development, based on one or another form
of socialism.
From 1980, this reality changed radically. For the purposes of this
discussion, we would highlight structural adjustment which began in
Peru in more subtle forms from 1975, the beginning of the second
phase of the military government. The Fujimori government, which
assumed power in 1990, later applied the mandates of the Washington
Consensus without anaesthesia, as has been said. This meant a
tremendous reduction in the purchasing power of the poorer urban
families, and job losses in factories and public institutions. The loss of
jobs also meant the loss of social benefits, especially in healthcare.
As mentioned above, the urban poor responded to the new situation
with the same strategies and mechanisms that they had used to build
their habitat: courage, creativity, organisation, solidarity, and a sense of
justice and dignity. However, if we step back and take a broader look at
what has taken place, especially in the last two decades, we find that not

Sustainable development and democracy in the megacities 113

only have the grassroots urban organisations dropped off the news
agenda but also the worker and peasant movements have been greatly
weakened. This is due in part to structural adjustment in which labour
laws have been made more flexible in order to cut production costs
and reduce government spending. Any union leader who becomes a
nuisance can be quickly thrown into the growing ranks of the
unemployed. And the peasant movement has been hard hit by the
break up of community lands, the lack of technical and financial aid,
and the individual struggle for survival within an ideological context of
neo-liberalism and a strictly market-driven agricultural strategy.
Nor are CBOs a profitable commodity in the market-driven mass
media. A good scandal, the more sordid the better, has much more
chance of making the news than does the fact that hundreds of
thousands of urban poor defy social statistics and are not only surviving,
but becoming involved in alternative development processes. The
problem is not just the media, for these are essentially a barometer of
what is happening in society. In terms of politics, for instance, often the
best way to be elected in Peru is to be the best clown. In the recent
parliamentary elections, candidates have had to jump off cliffs in hang-
gliders, dress up as Batman, and use all possible means to get press
coverage. Issues of substance have been pushed off the media agenda.
Our approach to sustainable development has gone, and has had to
go, far beyond the simple conservation of natural resources. We believe
that the conservation of the planet depends not so much on limiting
cutting back on the use of natural resources, especially in countries
where basic material needs are still unsatisfied; rather, it depends on
adopting a new, ethical approach to development, in which the
economic dimensions and material aspects the having are seen as
means to being, to a high quality of life, to the unlimited expansion of
our individual and social capacities. And we need to build a political
system that makes such development possible. We have come to
understand that in complex modern societies that are built on
individual freedoms, ethics can only be brought into development
through democratic politics.
A stable structure for sustainability
It is increasingly clear that achieving stability in terms of integral
human development is a complex challenge and must be seen as a
social (especially educational), political, and economic process. Even if
we were to limit the scope of sustainable to the environmental aspects,

114 Development and Cities

it is obvious that without a democratic political system concerns about
our planet and its limited resources will have no effect on the decisions
taken. We would summarise the different aspects to be taken into
account as follows:
Social level
Our point of departure and return in the development process is people
and their communities. Development is concerned, as many have said,
with peoples needs and capacities, and with building communities
which permit the highest quality of life. In the urban areas where poor
people live, sustainable development must be based upon the ethical
mandate to provide the basic human conditions that give each person
a just opportunity to develop his or her capacities. This goes beyond
mere survival tactics to ensuring that programmes for poverty relief
and attention to basic human needs are seen as part of an integral
development process. Obviously, this also covers initiatives to improve
environmental living conditions in urban areas, such as water supply,
solid waste management, and parks and green areas.
Integral development
Efforts to relieve poverty and protect the environment cannot remain
at the level of ensuring basic survival. It is also becoming clear that with
the levels of massive poverty and the prolonged economic crisis
brought about by the application of neo-liberal policies, redistribution
measures are even more necessary, but in themselves are not sufficient.
It is also plain and please excuse the repetition that redistribution,
poverty relief, and environmental programmes must be part of an
integrated developmental strategy. Development will not be
sustainable if this is not achieved.
We must also understand the context in which we are approaching
integral and sustainable development, or we run the risk of promoting
oversimplified solutions. An example of this is the importance now
given to the informal economic sector. There has been much emphasis
placed on small or micro-enterprises as the magic solution in offering
economic development for the urban poor. Our work over the last 20
years with small businesses, which are multiplying in the megacity,
shows that most of them are simply survival tactics with little or no
chance for accumulation. Larger enterprises have more possibility for
growth, but their markets are limited and increasingly invaded by
cheap imports.
If we look at the purchasing power of the inhabitants of the northern
cone of Lima, however, we do find a possible market for economic

Sustainable development and democracy in the megacities 115

growth. This area has a population of nearly two million. That means
two million pairs of shoes, socks, trousers, etc.. It also means furniture,
building materials, medicines (natural medicines), and services such
as education and recreation, nutrition the list is very long. It is not
unrealistic to project that local producers could satisfy up to 80 per cent
of these demands. However, the monopolistic and transnational
production system, the concentration of commerce in a few shopping
malls, a financial system which siphons out the savings of poor people,
and a free-market policy which offers no protection for emerging
enterprises, conspire against the economic dimension of a sustainable
development strategy.
Political level
Democratic politics is essential for sustainable development. All our
strategies and programmes with the urban poor must be evaluated in
relation to their impact on building a democratic, institutionalised
(sustainable) political system, which people regard as their principal
instrument for moving towards human development. This is another
gigantic and complex area, but one which we cannot afford to ignore.
Our strategies here must address three basic aspects. The first is
rethinking and reforming the state. There is no justification for
imposing on all countries a one-size-fits-all model that was designed
for other realities and other tasks. We need a state that can make
development sustainable for the people in poor urban areas. It must do
more than level the playing field. It must strengthen the players, give
them the tools they need and, especially while they begin to grow,
protect them from other oversized players who invade their pitch.
Second, the complex societies of the Third World need much more
than simple referendum or plebiscite democracies. To be sustainable,
our political systems require professional political actors, both
individuals and political parties. Many analysts have placed the blame
for the political debacle in Peru exclusively on the political parties, both
right and left. The voters seem to share this assessment and continue
to punish the parties and their leaders. However, after 10 years of an
independent government we are becoming aware that without
professional political actors, the aspirations and proposals of the
people cannot be translated into viable political proposals. Rather,
independent rule has meant domination and manipulation and, most
alarming, the collapse of peoples wish to participate in politics. It is
almost certain that in Peru, after an electoral process whose validity was
questioned the world over, there will be a swing back to party politics.

116 Development and Cities

The question is how this process will take place and what types of
political parties will result.
A third and central aspect concerning the political level, and the one
which is closest to our work and concern, is the building of a solid civil
society and strengthening of citizens who have a positive approach to
politics and a will to participate. Much effort and many resources have
been dedicated to programmes mostly educational designed to
build citizenship and to strengthen civil society (Joseph 2000).
However, our strategy must centre principally on actors and processes
at the sub-national level. In the megacities this means decentralised
strategies; so, in the case of metropolitan Lima, for example, we are
working on ways to surround the cones. Within that sub-national
urban context, we have focused on what might be called emerging
public scenarios or public spaces where, we believe, conditions are
developing for building a new political and popular lite and new forms
of linking democracy to development.
Public spaces: a decentralised approach to development and
democracy in the megacity
In the UNRISD and UNV study (Joseph 1999), we examined the
evolving experience of concertacin which is occurring in the popular
neighbourhoods and is becoming something of a buzzword in Peru.
According to the Local Agenda 21 Peru:
The concept of concertacin is difficult to translate. It goes beyond
consultation and brings the different stakeholders around the table
so that solutions can be negotiated and responsibilities assigned.
This includes conflicting interests where these exist.
(Miranda and Hordijk 1998: 71)

Concertacin does not exactly mean debate, discussion, or consultation,

although it includes all of these practices. In a process of concertacin,
different often conflicting actors and interest groups sit at the
planning table, analyse problems, design solutions, and, when
possible, participate in putting these plans into practice. According to
Grompone and Meja, concertacin refers to the integration of different
actors in a system of negotiation and in the construction of public
agendas. This situation requires that each of the participants be
recognised as a legitimate social and political actor (Grompone and
Meja 1995: 217). In these processes and scenarios the actors and
institutions involved must be open to making compromises and

Sustainable development and democracy in the megacities 117

Concertacin is taking place in public spaces in which organisations
of different natures, with different and often opposing interests, are
learning to recognise the others at the table as persons and social
players with legitimate rights and interests. They are learning to plan
together, to build common interest, and, we believe, to incorporate
ethical values and cultural principles into the development planning
process, which is essential if development is to be human as well as
sustainable. Our major hypothesis, which is also a strategy, is that in
these experiences we can find the seeds and ideas for a new democratic
system that is an instrument for sustainable development.
This hypothesis is based on the positive aspects we find in the
following experiences:
The new experiences create favourable conditions for discussing
development and for broadening the interests of the popular
organisations. They also allow concrete demands and needs to be
linked in synergetic strategies, and enable people to look beyond the
short term to medium- and long-term planning. The process leads
to a more integral and human focus on development.
Through interchange and discussion in the planning processes, the
social actors learn to do more than express demands for the things
they lack. In so doing, they become more aware of their capacities,
needs, and interests and they learn to express and defend these in
dialogue with others. This self-recognition of interests and aspirations
helps the participants to recognise the legitimacy of others interests,
which is essential for building a shared solution.
In these public spaces it is possible openly to discuss ethical
principles and values and to incorporate these in the planning
process. It is also possible to broaden and strengthen the basis of
trust and solidarity that are essential for building a democratic
political system and for development. It is becoming evident that the
post-material values can be important factors and may be incorporated
into development planning even when the actors are faced with
crucial material deficits.
In these public spaces the social actors begin to value and appreciate
the dignity and role of democratic politics, understood as a human
activity that is based not only on power but also on discourse, i.e.
systems, symbols, and common values.
A new understanding of, and new relations with, public agencies
and local governments are established, thus overcoming the
exclusively conflictual relations that tend to predominate.

118 Development and Cities

These are the reasons why we are betting on a strategy that is centred
on the strengthening of the poplar urban actors, CBOs, and local
government and in consolidating the public spaces for concertacin. In
Peru and many other Third World countries, these participatory
planning processes, or concertations have drawn a lot of attention and
raised considerable expectations, although we are also aware of the
need for caution in this regard (Joseph 2000).
Political culture and development
Within the new experiences of concertation that are occurring in these
emerging urban public spaces we have begun to focus on the social
actors themselves, especially the community leaders, the grassroots
urban lite. This is not out of any wish to leave aside the other actors
such as local government, political parties, NGOs, and foreign development
agencies. Nor do we mean to ignore the adverse economic and political
context. We are focusing on the social actors, especially the popular
urban leaders, because successes in the other areas depend primarily
on these people (Joseph 2000).
Our research into the political culture for development will be
based on interviews, focus-group discussions, and direct observation.
Our questions and findings fall into three central categories:
individual and community;
vision of development; and
vision of politics.
The first category is the study of grassroots leaders and is centred on
the process by which people perceive themselves as individuals. What
we are finding is a positive correlation between self-esteem and self-
awareness and respect for others and for political processes (Joseph
2000). The converse is that when people and communities have low
self-esteem, their values of solidarity and confidence are usually
restricted to primary relations (e.g. family, place of origin, religious
faith). It is obvious that in planning and evaluating our involvement
with the urban communities we must include actions to strengthen
individuals and the kinds of relationships and values at work in the
community. Likewise, we should include indicators that measure
progress or regression in this regard.
The second category includes the working vision of development
found in the leaders, assessing whether this is merely short term in
focus or more inclusive and long term. We are also seeking to

Sustainable development and democracy in the megacities 119

establish how far social actors appreciate the role of community in
achieving personal and community development, or whether progress
is understood as being only the result of personal endeavour and
competitiveness (Joseph 2000).
The third category of ideas encompasses the political perspective
and the construction of public spaces. As we see it, opportunities for
reconstructing the public domain and a democratic political system
exist primarily at the sub-national or regional level and not only in the
megacity (Joseph 2000). We are finding that there is a correlation
between the vision of development more or less human and integral
and the will to participate in the emerging forms of democratic
We would insist, therefore, that these topics individual and
community, sustainable human development, and democratic politics
become part of our common agenda, North and South. We need to do
and share more research on the social and political actors, especially in
the urban public spaces. Such research needs to be linked to our own
work in promoting sustainable development and, in a context such as
that of Peru, also linked to promoting good governance within a
decentralised strategy.
One final thought is to say that we would do a great disservice to the
urban poor communities and leaders if we were to motivate them to
participate in the complex processes of democratisation and
development without also offering them the opportunities for the kind
of education these processes demand. It is not enough simply to train
people in techniques for addressing isolated needs and issues. They also
need the theoretical tools which will allow them to understand
themselves, their organisations, democracy, ethics, and development,
and the importance of these to sustainable development practices and
planning. For this reason, we are also beginning to take on the shared
task of building educational opportunities, methods, and materials the
leaders require. But telling that story will have to wait for another

120 Development and Cities

Notes Hall, Peter (1998) Megacities, world
cities and global cities, in Megacities
1 This article is based on the paper Lectures, available at:
presented at the May 2000 www.megacities.nl/lecture@hall.htm
conference: Cities of the South, ICLEI (1996) Manual for Local Planning
Sustainable for Whom? hosted by of Agenda 21, Toronto: ICLEI
UNRISD, N-AERUS, and the Federal Joseph, Jaime (1999) Lima Megaciudad:
Polytechnic of Lausanne. It also draws democracia, desarrollo y descentralizacin
heavily on a paper published in en sectores populares, Lima: Centro
Development in Practice (Joseph Alternativa and UNRISD
2000), and reprinted in Deborah Joseph, Jaime (2000) NGOs: fragmented
Eade (ed.) (2001) Debating Development: dreams, Development in Practice
The Future of NGOs, Oxford: Oxfam. 10(3&4): 390401
2 For example, in Peru the Cities for Max-Neef, Manfred, Elizalde Antioni and
Life Forum prides itself on not giving Martin Hopenhayn (1986) Desarrollo
priority to Lima [in order] to a escala humana, Development
contribute to the strengthening of Dialogue , special issue
the capacities of those who really need Marcuse, Peter (1998) Sustainability is
them most (Miranda and Hordijk not enough, Environment and
1998). Urbanization 10(2): 103-11
3 Not to have sewerage, water, or Miranda, Liliana and Michaela Hordijk
streetlights is quite a different thing (1998) Let us build cities for life: the
in a shantytown compared with a national campaign of Local Agenda
rural area. If we included quality-of- 21s in Peru, Environment and
life indicators such as the number of Urbanization 10(2): 69103
persons who were victims of violence Morris, David (1996) The Changing
or robbery, pollution levels, and so Condition of the Worlds Poor,
on in the last six months, the poverty 19601990: Some Development Policy
maps of the megacities would be quite Implications, Rehoboth, MA: Brown
different. University
Sen, Amartya (1983) Los bienes y la
References gente, Comercio Exterior 12: 1115-23
Sen, Amartya (1997) Valores y
Borja, Jordi (1997) Significado y Funcin
prosperidad econmica Europa y
en el Espacio Urbano Moderno,
Asia, Conferencia en Cataa,
Barcelona: Centro de Cultura
www.iigov.org/pnud, Catalua
Contempornea de Barcelona
Espaa 7
Castells, Manuel (1996) The Information
Sen, Amartya (1999) Teoras del
Age: Economy, Society, and Culture,
desarrollo a principios del siglo XXI,
Oxford: Blackwell
in Louis Emmerji and Jos Nuez
Goulet, Denis (1995) Development Ethics:
del Arco (eds) El desarrollo econmico
A Guide to Theory and Practice, New
y social en los umbrales del siglo XXI,
York: The Apex Press
Washington, DC: InterAmerican
Grompone, Romeo and Carlos Meja
Development Bank
(1995) Nuevos Tiempos, Nueva Poltica,
Coleccin Mnima 32, Lima: IEP

Sustainable development and democracy in the megacities 121

Unsustainable development:
the Philippine experience

Karina Constantino-David

In 1960, less than 50 per cent of the worlds 19 megacities were in developing
countries. Today, more than 80 per cent of its 60 megacites are in the
South. In just four decades our cities have grown to spectacular
proportions. Every country in the South can boast at least one major city
that serves as the centre of governance and commerce as well as newer
cities that are also developing at an alarming rate. While the presence
of modern amenities marks our cities, a large segment of the urban
population has barely the basic necessities for survival. The urban poor,
residing on the edges of the rich enclaves, eke out a living in the midst
of affluence, scavenge from the remains of our cities consumerist
lifestyle, and are systematically excluded from urban development.
For decades we have known of the spread of urbanisation and its
concomitant ills. But our governments chose to prioritise development
even as countries of the North are already exhibiting the negative
characteristics of unplanned growth. We set our sights on emulating
the patterns of more developed countries, blindly importing and
transplanting images of cities from the more affluent parts of the globe
into what were essentially underdeveloped nations.

Parasitic development
The problem with development is that it implies movement towards a
goal. Through the years, this movement has focused primarily on
economic growth. The hope and the promise were that growth would
trickle down to the poor. Towards the second half of the 1980s, the
concept of sustainable development was introduced, and was meant to
correct the flaws of developmental thinking by mitigating the effects of
the gods of economic growth with the foresight of generations to come.
But this kept us essentially on the same development path, except that
the importance of the environment we share has come to the forefront.

122 Development and Cities

However, even with the grudging acceptance of the need for
sustainable development by governments and multilateral agencies,
the realities have not changed for the masses in the South. We have a
parasitic form of development. It is a development that blindly assumes
that human and natural resources are inexhaustible. It sacrifices the
poor and the environment on the altar of the market and its promises
of economic growth.
Economic growth and its consequent patterns of consumption
cannot be equated with an improvement in the quality of life. In fact,
while the pursuit of economic growth has indeed produced increases
in trade, investment, and output in general, it has also resulted in
widening disparities and inequalities between people and nations.
The transactional and utilitarian nature of the market has further
disempowered large numbers of people and marginalised their
The unquestioned development paradigm and the rush of our
governments to compete in the global market have had disastrous
results. While our cities have grown to attract foreign investments, our
rural areas have stagnated. Finding no way out of poverty, rural folk
migrate to the cities in search of waged work. But for an under-
developed country to attract foreign investment, one prerequisite is low
wages. These migrants swell the ranks of the urban poor, engaging in
low-paid contractual jobs, surviving through the informal economy,
and residing in informal settlements. The irony of our cities is that they
develop, quite literally, at the expense of the poor and our environment.
The reasons for poverty are complex. The primary causes are of a
political, economic, structural, and social nature, abetted by a lack of
political resolve and erroneous attitudes regarding public policy and
the deployment of resources:
At the individual level, people are handicapped by lack of access to
resources, skills, or opportunities to make a decent living.
On the societal plane, the major causes are inequalities in the
distribution of resources, services, and power. These inequalities
may be institutionalised in terms of land, capital, infrastructure,
markets, credit, education, information, and advisory services. The
same is true for the provision of social services: education, health,
clean water, and sanitation. Inequality of services leaves rural areas
the worst off, so that it comes as no surprise that an estimated 77 per
cent of the developing worlds poor live in rural zones. Yet the urban
poor are mired in even worse conditions (ICPQL 1996: 22).

Unsustainable development: the Philippine experience 123

A more appropriate direction would be towards a Sustainable
Improvement in the Quality of Life, which would allow us to focus on
the needs of the poor and the environment within the realities of each
country without compromising the ability of future generations to
meet their own needs. The needs of the present must be viewed from
the perspective of the poor, the needs of those who have been abused
most by the current development path. The goal of sustainable
improvement in the quality of life allows countries and sectors to define
directions that can accommodate subjectivity and cultural diversity in
an ever-ascending spiral.
Sustainable Improvement in the Quality of Life, as proposed by the
Independent Commission on Population and the Quality of Life,
requires us to respect the limits of the globes carrying capacity while
at the same time taking responsibility for the needs of people and the
environment, in other words our caring capacity. The antithesis of
care is power and control, abuse and aggression. But in order to take
this new path, we must recognise that the continued parasitism of
society on the misery of the poor and the degradation of the
environment will inevitably become the basis for the unsustainability
and breakdown of our cities.

Patterns of parasitism in Philippine cities

Fifty-one per cent of the population of the Philippines, roughly 38
million people or 6.5 million families, lives in urban areas. The country
has one of the highest rates of urban growth in the developing world, at
5.1 per cent over the past four decades. This has been due to a high birth
rate of approximately 2.3 per cent per annum, rural-to-urban migration,
and the reclassification of rural areas as urban due to their increasing
population densities. It is significant to note that while rural-to-urban
migration is still a major source of the increasing urban population,
especially in newer cities, second- and third-generation migrants are
now greater in number in areas like Metro Manila. Migration is
obviously testimony to the continuing poverty in the countryside that
forces the poor to seek a better means for survival in the cities.
Of the urban population, approximately ten million live in Metro
Manila, which has an annual growth rate of 3.3 per cent. This area
accounts for more than 30 per cent of the gross national product, but
at least 3.5 million people can be categorised as urban poor. Ten
thousand families live along the Pasig River alone, 32,000 families by
the major tributaries, 45,000 families beside the railway tracks, and the

124 Development and Cities

rest in pockets of urban decay that range from communities of a
handful of families to slums of tens of thousands of people.
The brown environment has long been abused air, noise, and
water pollution, inadequate waste disposal, and congestion. The
carrying capacity, or the maximum sustainable load that can be
imposed on the environment before it loses its capacity to support
human activity, is in peril. Motorised transport accounts for 94 per cent
of the total organic gas in the air, 99 per cent of the carbon monoxide,
and 83 per cent of nitrogen oxide emissions. Industries release massive
amounts of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, and domestic and
industrial waste is indiscriminately dumped into the citys waterways
and streets. Apart from this, environmental degradation can be seen
from the frequent disasters that occur: traffic pollution, flooding,
homes destroyed by landslides and other earth movements, and death
of wildlife in the rivers and seas.
Even as we strain the carrying capacity of the metropolis, the
inadequacy of our own caring capacity is obvious. Metro Manila, where
economic activities are centred, is home to the best urban amenities in
both the business districts and in the rich residential suburbs. But
security services are booming, protecting these areas from the assault
of those who have far less. Tertiary healthcare and education are
concentrated in the metropolis. But the primary health services
accessible to the urban poor pale in comparison with those in rural
areas: there is one primary health unit for every 10,000 people in the
countryside compared with one for every 50,000 people in the urban
centres. Even though primary and secondary education may be of a
slightly higher quality in cities, the 1: 50 teacher-to-pupil ratio makes
basic education unsatisfactory. At the college level, the scene is
dominated by private universities, which overcharge for substandard
education. And while the seats of government, the media, and the
church are situated in Metro Manila, the basic minimum needs of the
urban poor remain unmet.
Despite respectable economic growth and the proliferation of urban
amenities, quality of life in Metro Manila has deteriorated. Economic
growth that hinges on belief in globalisation has been achieved on the
backs of the poor and at the expense of the environment. Unless drastic
steps are taken, this very model is likely to discourage the much sought-
after foreign investments. Inevitably, quality of life will deteriorate
further and even the few who benefit from this kind of parasitic
development will end up with less than they have today.

Unsustainable development: the Philippine experience 125

Which actors and what factors make or break cities?
No amount of dreaming can result in an alternative future as long as
the major actors and factors that can make or break a city remain
unchanged. In the case of Metro Manila and other urban areas in the
Philippines, these can be categorised in two distinct groups: those who
wield power and those who are powerless.
There are five distinct but overlapping power groups the state,
business, the dominant church, the media, and international aid
agencies which, although they are not monolithic, share responsibility
for the deteriorating quality of life in cities. The model of development
that underpins their actions is economic development through global
competitiveness, with foreign investment as the engine of growth. But
while sustainable development, equity, and pro-poor rhetoric are
standard fare, there have been but minimal improvements in the lives
of the urban poor. Secure shelter, sanitation, potable water, and pollution
remain grave problems.
In the Philippines, the present administration, hounded by
inefficiency and corruption, doggedly pursues the same economic
policies as previous governments, despite a pro-poor campaign line
that ushered it into power.1 The poor, who put their faith over-
whelmingly in President Estrada, were buoyed by initial promises. The
business community and the dominant church nervously awaited clear
directions on economic policy, fearful of growing cronyism and flip-
flopping decisions. Media exposs of the inadequacies of the government
range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Foreign agencies like the IMF
baulked at what seemed to be a partial declaration of autonomy by some
government economic managers as, for example, the insistence that
interest rates be lowered.
But while charges of graft and mismanagement have remained, the
economic directions seem to have settled back to the same development
paradigm. In the Housing and Urban Development Department,
which we headed for 15 months, the following radical changes in policy
were undertaken:
situating shelter within a broader national urban policy
allocating 80 per cent of government budgetary allocations for
housing for the poor;
expanding options for the lowest-income households through
efficient rental markets;

126 Development and Cities

strengthening co-operative housing and the Community
Mortgage Programme;2
housing finance reforms;
localising and decentralising urban and shelter policy, with an
emphasis on ecological balance;
ensuring effective participation of the poor;
redefining public and private sector roles to ensure a better
distribution of responsibilities and risks.
These changes were met with angry protests from a portion of the real
estate business sector whose short-term interests were threatened.
While most of the top-level government decision makers, as well as
foreign aid agencies, welcomed these policy shifts, they were diffident
about confronting the self-interest groups. It was more comfortable for
government functionaries to keep away from the fray, while foreign aid
agencies refused to take a proactive stance by hiding behind the
convenient excuse of non-interference, although they were willing to
voice their frustrations in private. Only a division of the World Bank
took the bold step of immediately suspending negotiations for a major
housing programme. Since the early 1990s the World Bank had taken
a critical stance regarding past government housing policies. Our
radical revisions in policies, especially in the field of housing finance,
were basically consistent with the Banks perspectives. As such, a grant-
loan package was in the final stages of approval at the time. In the final
analysis, however, the political will for change gave way to the temptations
of corruption and image building.
Civil society NGOs, peoples organisations, academia, left-wing
political groups, and other voluntary organisations were powerless in
the face of these attempts to protect the status quo and resist the
reforms. First, the micro-perspective of the poor allowed them to view
the changes only within the limited perspective of their immediate
needs. Second, NGOs could not keep up with the policy debates,
especially those that were systemic rather than concrete in nature.
Third, some ideological activists could not wean themselves away from
a consistently oppositionist stance to anything emanating from
government. Fourth, academics did not seem to take much interest in
either policy or research. Finally, there was a yawning gap between civil
society demands (which were either very concrete or supremely
conceptual) and the day-to-day requisites of change.

Unsustainable development: the Philippine experience 127

Pasig River rehabilitation
The case of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission provides a
concrete illustration. The Pasig River is the major waterway of Metro
Manila, covering a 27km stretch with dozens of tributaries that were
once the centre of transportation and economic and cultural activity.
Today the river is dead. It is the dumping ground for domestic and
industrial waste, the largest septic tank in the country. Ten thousand
informal settler families live on its banks, in houses built on stilts in
the river, and underneath its bridges. Every previous administration for
the past 40 years has tried to revive the river, and each has failed. The
Estrada government decided to embark on an ambitious but achievable
programme to resurrect the river (dredging, revetment walls,
minimising water pollution, etc.), relocate the settlers within the ten-
metre easement, restore it as a viable means of alternative trans-
portation, and create open spaces along the banks.
The determination to succeed where others had failed miserably
meant creating a commission composed of cabinet members who
would orchestrate the entire programme. Apart from government
resources, DANIDA (the Danish government aid agency) and the Asia
Development Bank (ADB) provided support. A crucial element was
dealing with the settlers. Past attempts had resulted in protests and
forcible and inhumane relocation to distant sites and ultimately the
return of about 50 per cent of the settlers.
Work with the commission started in January 1999. A Housing and
Resettlement Group (HRG) (which I chaired) was immediately
established. It included representatives from each of the affected local
government units and representatives from the informal settlers and
their NGO counterparts. The HRG arrived at a consensus on a
framework to govern resettlement, jointly revalidated a 1977 family
census, and agreed on uniform parameters on the process of relocation,
identified appropriate sites, scheduled each area for resettlement over
a two-year period, and set up a monthly bulletin to provide accurate
information to each of the communities. Among the innovations
introduced were:
voluntary relocation;
giving priority to in-city, then near-city, relocation;
providing communities with various options rather than just one

128 Development and Cities

taking whole communities to the sites before they made their
the setting up of a graduated lease-purchase scheme, starting at
less than US$10 a month;
encouraging Local Government Units (LGUs) to keep the settlers
within their boundaries or to contribute a set amount to the
receiving LGUs if the settlers could not be accommodated within
the city;
making every effort to ensure that basic amenities and facilities
utilities, transportation, schools, health clinics, employment
were present in each of the resettlement areas;
ensuring transparency, by asking the private sector to submit
already developed potential resettlement sites for consideration,
and over which (apart from technical evaluations) the prospective
resident had the final decision;
providing settlers with the option to submit their own
resettlement plans.
Ten months later, despite what seemed like a slow start because of the
participatory nature of the process, almost 2000 families had moved
into new homes of their choice. These were medium-rise buildings
along a major highway or terraced houses on the edge of Metro Manila.
Relocation was voluntary, there were no acrimonious protests, and the
cost of the sites was 1535 per cent lower than the market value. In one
area where the schools were not completed, relocation was limited only
to those families that could be accommodated, even though 2000 more
houses were ready for occupancy.
With hindsight, we could have done better. One major problem was
with funding. The time that the ADB needed to process applications
meant that funds would only be available by the year 2000. And yet
President Estrada demanded action based on an extremely tight
schedule. At the same time, some communities that wanted to ensure
getting the site of their choice also wanted to move even while the
schools were still being built. Within six months of my resignation,
there was already restiveness in both the relocated communities and
the communities still to be resettled. The HRG has been effectively
disbanded. The poor no longer have access to decision makers. The
sites identified for the Pasig River resettlers have become areas for
other communities that have been forcibly relocated, the promised

Unsustainable development: the Philippine experience 129

facilities have not been completed, and the people no longer have a say
about the sites to which they would be transferred.
Not all the problems throughout this process came from government
and foreign agencies. Academics were completely absent, when they
could have provided much-needed assistance through research and
fresh insights. Some political groups attempted to derail the process by
stirring up all sorts of fears. But the participatory nature of the HRG
ensured that leaders of the urban poor and NGOs could contain any
disinformation because they themselves were part of the decision-
making body. Although it was well worth it, the process was at times
tedious and repetitive due to initially unreasonable demands, for
example on-site relocation with free land, or a lack of understanding of
the complexities of resettlement.

The role of foreign aid agencies: the seven deadly

The noble rationale for foreign aid is altruism, the responsibility of
more developed countries to assist those with less, as an expression of
concern as well as recognition that we share the same planet. But, in
reality, much foreign assistance has degenerated into expressions of
power and control and the dividing line between aid and business has
become blurred. It is the reproduction of old colonial relations framed
within the hypocritical rhetoric of democracy and philanthropy.
Undeniably, foreign aid agencies promote economic development
as their highest priority. Some espouse it openly while others hide
behind the platitudes of sustainable development. Countries of the
South that are in desperate need of funds are thus placed in the ironic
situation of having to thank lenders and donors for funds that ensure
the South develops according to the paradigms of the North. This
integrates them into a global order in which poor countries, like the
poor of their own nations, are powerless.
With rare exceptions, foreign aid is premised on one view of the
world. The identification of projects and programmes is largely left in
the hands of the giver with the recipient having the illusory option to
accept or reject. Countries of the South are in a double bind short-
term gains for long-term pain or short-term pains for long-term gain.
Within a democratic political system each administration invariably
chooses the former, if only for political survival. And in the final
analysis, it is the poor and the environment that suffer.

130 Development and Cities

But, when viewed within the context of a government that has
almost lost the capacity to care for the poor and the environment,
beyond the basic issues of the development model that underpins
foreign aid are practical realities that make the relation between givers
and takers more onerous. The seven deadly sins are as follows:
Project pushers: The cycle begins with a mission then moves to
technical assistance usually by means of grants which appear to be
altruistic attempts at assistance. But the agenda is largely set by the
aid agency and the country is hooked to the loans that follow. And
yet aid-givers have no accountability for the failures and the misery
that may result from such projects.
Bureaucratic straitjackets: The bureaucracy that has developed
around aid is inflexible and expensive. No matter how much work
has been put into consultations and project planning, foreign aid
agencies require recipients to run the gauntlet of evaluations and
project forms. At every step, the premise seems to be an underlying
suspicion that the officials in the recipient country are either
incompetent or cheats.
Parasitic expertise: Much money is spent in hiring foreign consultants
who tap local expertise as their workhorses instead of establishing
collaboration on an equal footing. And yet much of the paperwork
is simply a rehash of previous studies and plans. In many instances,
government officials need to spend hours in briefing sessions in
order to produce instant foreign experts on the Philippines, who are
paid by the day more than we earn in a month.
Cultural blindness: Many foreign aid personnel and consultants
regard the South as a homogeneous entity, perhaps believing in the
omnipotence of their paradigm, the infallibility of their expertise,
and the uniform nature of their subjects. As such, countries of the
South are forced to face an aid bureaucracy that is bereft of insight
into our own uniqueness, which is grounded in centuries of history.
Insensitive conditionalities: Because projects must run according to
predetermined schedules and patterns, it is the poor and/or the
environment that are ultimately sacrificed. Like the structural
adjustment programmes that insist on bitter pills that further
compromise the quality of life of the poor, some urban projects
dismiss the needs of the poor in order to meet demands of foreign

Unsustainable development: the Philippine experience 131

Negative acculturation: Because most foreign aid agencies work
through and with government, these agencies have learned to work
the system. Instead of insisting on professional relations, they have
learned the arts of patronage and pulling strings in the background.
Direction without risk: Foreign aid agencies have the luxury of
imposing projects while shielding themselves from any risks. On
the financial side, loan repayments are, after all, guaranteed. On the
human side, it is not they who will suffer the consequences. On the
political side, they hardly earn the wrath of those whose lives are
negatively affected since it is the in-country government that takes
the flak.
There are certainly many cases in aid programmes where these sins are
avoided. I have had the benefit of working directly with people from
foreign agencies who undeniably have had the best interests of the
Philippines at heart. While there is much that can be done to reform
foreign aid, it is still the countries of the South that must bear the
burden of change.

The challenges ahead

A shift in our development paradigm is urgently needed. I do not refer
to earth-shattering upheavals, but to the simple resurrection of the
importance of the rights of people and nature. In our frenzied rush
towards economic development, our macro-economic policies and the
short-term nature of political decision making have strained the
carrying capacity of the earth and forgotten our caring capacity for the
rights and needs of the poor. But beyond the platitudes that regularly
mark our public statements, there are practical initiatives that can be
introduced or strengthened.
Most of our governments have highly centralised systems for
deciding national policies, allocating resources, and implementing
programmes. Although we can all hope for national governance that is
more responsive to the rights of the poor and the environment, we also
know that the pressures of the dominant development paradigm are
also stronger at this level. The specific realities on the ground are also
more distant from national agencies, despite the presence of local
structures. Consistent with a bottom-up approach, and because of the
growing complexity especially of urban life, decentralisation to the local
government level has the greatest potential to turn the situation
around. This requires that central government lay down the general

132 Development and Cities

directions, policies, and regulatory framework while local government
units play a more proactive role in planning and implementation.
Allow me to mention a few of the actions that local governments
could undertake immediately:
Minimum quality-of-life indicators: Social policies are the visible
expressions of a caring government. We can start by creating
measurable and verifiable parameters for non-negotiable minimum
quality-of-life standards for each of our cities. Indicators must be
formulated with the active participation of civil society. Indicators
that are able to measure outcomes can serve as a social contract
between local authorities and their constituencies because they
relate to concrete action and defined accountabilities. For example,
from baseline data on existing realities, quantifiable targets for the
improvement of minimum quality-of-life indicators on housing,
potable water, sanitation systems, welfare, employment, education,
and health can be regularly monitored. Instead of the rhetoric of
promises, it is a challenge to responsible local officials to submit
themselves to regular assessment based upon clear indicators of
performance. But, more than this, minimum quality-of-life indicators
with a defined timetable can lay the foundation for ensuring that
the poor and the environment are given the highest priority in
Learning from the poor: Expertise very often takes on an unconscious
arrogance. Most public policy is formed without the participation of
the poor. Many of our political leaders and technocrats unfortunately
perceive the engagement of the poor as messy. On the other hand,
civil society organisations tend to romanticise the poor as having all
the answers. Social policy can only be effective if decision makers
draw from the wealth of knowledge and skills of the technical
experts and also of the poor. In the final analysis, a participatory
approach is the best guarantee for success.
Maximising innovative initiatives: We do not need to reinvent the
wheel. There are many innovative initiatives that can be main-
streamed and further strengthened. The Sustainable Cities
Programme of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements
and the United Nations Environment Programme and the City
Development Strategies of the World Bank, although implemented
in only a few areas, have had some positive results, especially in the
area of participation. In the Philippines, the Community Mortgage

Unsustainable development: the Philippine experience 133

Programme, which allows informal settlements to negotiate with
landowners and purchase the land on which they live, has
accomplished significant results. More than 100,000 families have
benefited, with repayment rates significantly higher than the usual
low-cost housing packages. Various micro-enterprise initiatives and
co-operative movements in Asia have also shown that, given the
chance, the poor can manage their own economic development. In
the field of health and education, many NGO-initiated programmes
are testimonies to successful alternative interventions. It is also
worth emphasising that all the successes can be traced back to the
level of organisation found in urban poor communities. Organising
and the accompanying increase in knowledge, attitudes, and skills
of the urban poor is the base upon which poverty can most effectively
be overcome.
Making the market work: In this era of globalisation, it is nave to
dream of poverty eradication without addressing the market.
Business and finance have long been viewed as the antithesis of
poverty. But, in much the same way as we have learned that we all
share a finite earth, business has also come to accept the reality that
massive poverty is not good for business. The past few decades have
seen a slowly emerging trend whereby more business conglomerates
have moved from an almost total lack of concern, to charitable
endeavours, to involvement in social issues, to self-imposed quality-
of-life standards. Governments must speed up this development by
providing the climate that would encourage access to the market by
the poor. This can be done through enhancements like guarantees
of and incentives for credit to the poor as well as through transparent
subsidies so the poor can afford the market.
Focusing on newly emerging cities: If our megacities developed into
monstrosities due to lack of planning and simple neglect, we have
the opportunity to avoid the same mistakes in the newer cities. At
the same time, dramatic technological advances, especially in mass
transit and electronic communication systems, make it possible to
create centres of governance, business, and culture that need not be
congested within tightly confined geographic areas. It is therefore
imperative that local authorities in newly emerging cities muster the
political will to anticipate the future and plan their cities beyond
their terms of office.

134 Development and Cities

We are fortunate to be leaders at the beginning of a new century.
We can repeat the mistakes of the past or we can help to shape the
future. I am confident that local authorities, with the effective
participation of business and civil society, can make a difference for the
poor and our environment. With the assistance of multilateral
institutions along with urban researchers, all it takes is the political will
to go against the grain of tradition and the daring to care for the poor,
the environment, and the future.

Notes Reference
1 This paper was completed before the Independent Commission on Population
campaign to impeach President and Quality of Life (ICPQL) (1996)
Estrada had commenced. Caring for the Future: Report of the
2 The Community Mortgage Independent Commission on Population
Programme is an innovative system and Quality of Life, Oxford: Oxford
whereby informal settlers, with the University Press
assistance of an intermediary called
an originator, negotiate with the
landowner. Once an agreement has
been reached between the parties,
the land is mortgaged to the
government, the landowner is paid in
full, and the people amortise to the
government over a period of 25 years
at 6 per cent interest. For a fuller
description and assessment of this
programme, see the article by Berner
in this volume.

Unsustainable development: the Philippine experience 135

Sustainable urban development
in India: an inclusive perspective
Darshini Mahadevia

People-centred development, or sustainable human development, has

gained increasing acceptance over the last ten years. It emphasises that
development should be broad-based and bottom-up; redistributive and
just; and empowering and environmentally sustainable, seeking to
meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the
ability of future generations to meet their own needs (WCED 1987).
In 1992, Agenda 21 (UNCED) outlined programmes that go beyond
ecological sustainability to include other dimensions of sustainable
development, such as equity, economic growth, and popular participation.
Indeed, sustainable human development and Agenda 21 are converging.
The concept of sustainable cities derives from that of sustainable
development. The world is becoming increasingly urban and urbanisation
is shifting to the South. To date, urbanisation has coincided with, and
been accompanied by, increased consumption and ecological degradation
across the globe. The ecological impact of the shift to the South on the
quality of its urban environment has become a major justification for
the concept of sustainable cities. This concept is an amalgamation of
various independent processes: the urban environmental movement, the
decentralisation of local governance, and Agenda 21 followed by
Habitat II in 1996. Prior to Habitat II, urban environmental issues
were addressed by very few international efforts, namely: the
Sustainable City Programme (SCP), the Urban Management Programme
(UMP), the Urban Environment Forum (UEF), the International
Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), the Local Initiative
Facility for Urban Environment (LIFE), and the UNCHS (United
Nations Centre on Human Settlements) Best Practices awards.
The pursuit of sustainable development and sustainable cities is
set against the backdrop of an increasingly globalised world in
which the North dominates the South in economic terms. Most
countries of the South have become part of the global economy

136 Development and Cities

through conditionalities and a development model imposed by the
multilateral funding agencies under the general rgime of structural
adjustment programmes (SAPs). These have had adverse impacts on
social sectors (Cornia et al. 1987) and on the environment (Reed 1995).
In the urban context, SAPs have meant privatisation and commercial-
isation of infrastructure including social sectors, deregulation, and
some withdrawal of the state from welfare responsibilities under the
guise of decentralisation and popular participation (Stubbs and Clarke
1996; World Bank 1990; WRI et al. 1996).
Some have questioned the possibility of achieving sustainable
development while the interests of capital dominate over those of
people (Clow 1996). The same applies to the concept of sustainable
cities, and this paper will review the current debate on the subject and
then look specifically at the nature of the urban crisis in India and at
how this is being addressed in the context of SAPs. India does not have
a specific sustainable cities programme, and policy documents refer
to this only in the context of the urban environment. The governments
failure to address urban environmental issues has led to spontaneous
grassroots action and this paper will also review the effectiveness of
civil society movements in moving the sustainable cities agenda to
centre stage. The final section presents the inclusive approach and
suggests the main outstanding issues and immediate action required
in order to create sustainable cities in the South.

Unravelling the concept: sustainable cities in the

Sustainable development and sustainable cities are central terms in
the rhetoric of development policy making and debates. However, there
is little consensus as to what has to be sustained, and how this is to be
done. The WCED (1987) definition of sustainable development is
considered the most comprehensive by some (Redclift 1992; Vivian
1992; Choguill 1996) and mere environmental managerialism by others
(Clow 1996). Stren (1992) suggests that the very ambiguity of the term
attracts a wide range of political and intellectual currents across frag-
mented environmental movements. Chambers (1988) pegs the concept
on its ability to create or support sustainable livelihoods for the rural
populations of the South. This points to the fact that it is unsustainable
development, which emanates from excessive consumption in the
North and from the wealthy of the South, that has eroded rural liveli-
hoods, so that the rural poor then migrate to towns and live as urban poor.

Sustainable urban development in India 137

Making a structural criticism of the concept of sustainable
development, Clow (1996) argues that the current global system is
organised around the expansion of capital. This endeavour is
intrinsically unsustainable. Clow holds that the environmental
considerations cannot be tacked on as an afterthought to a for profit
economy (1996: 7). Even UNDPs concept of sustainable human
development has been criticised for being economistic, for having
ideological underpinnings (as it is supposed to take place in a global
system where the North dominates the South), and for not having made
the development process gender sensitive (Hirway and Mahadevia
1996; 1999). Nicholls (1996) criticises the approach for skirting round
the issue of existing power structures at global, national, and local levels
and for seeking to achieve sustainable development within structures
that in themselves prevent true bottom-up, participatory, holistic, and
process-based development initiatives; and for ignoring the reality of
self-interested development actors, to be found at every level, who
would perpetuate these unequal power structures.
Huckle (1996) groups these diverse definitions of sustainable
development into two categories, terming one weak sustainability
and the other strong sustainability. The former is supported by
conservative and liberal political ideologies, works towards sustainable
development within the existing global structure, accepts the free-
market ideology, individual property rights, minimum state regulation
and intervention, and looks for techno-managerial solutions. Such
solutions suit the official development aid agencies, including the World
Bank and UNCHS. Strong sustainable development accommodates
various approaches, namely those of deep ecologists, greens, social
ecologists, ecofeminists, postmodernists, political economists, and
others. They reject the idea that nature and social systems are at the
service of economic development, arguing that this bolsters capital
rather than people in the development process. Some of them see
sustainable development as a political process while others view it from
a moral perspective, suggesting that self-discipline is required to
achieve such development.
The concept of sustainable cities can be approached in much the
same way. However, there is widespread uncritical acceptance, even in
the South, of various UN sustainable cities programmes. In the early
1980s, UNCHS and the United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP) decided to prepare joint Environmental Guidelines for

138 Development and Cities

Settlements Planning and Management (or EPM) for cities. In the
early 1990s, this initiative was converted into the joint SCP. The SCP,
launched as a vehicle for implementing Agenda 21 at the city level, works
towards building capacities in urban environmental planning and
management, and promoting a broad-based participatory process. The
aim is to incorporate environmental management into urban develop-
ment decision making and to strengthen local capacities for doing so
through demonstration projects. This is a techno-managerial approach.
The way in which sustainable cities has been understood in the
North has led to environment-friendly cities or ecological cities,
where: (i) economic and environmental costs of urbanisation and
urban development are taken into account; (ii) there is self-reliance in
terms of resource production and waste absorption; (iii) cities become
compact and energy efficient; and (iv) the needs and rights of all are
well balanced (Haughton 1997). Proponents of this line of thinking
view urban environmental issues in the South through a Northern lens,
and so emphasise the reduction of resource consumption, local waste
absorption, and the use of renewable resources, but ignore the critical
issue of meeting basic human needs (Satterthwaite 1998).
Hardoy et al. (1992) hinted at numerous environmental problems
in the cities of the South as one Indian saying puts it a weak cow has
many bugs.1 Many of these problems are the result of poverty and the
inability of national and local governments to create institutions to
provide sustainable solutions to poverty. They are also the result of a
flawed development model, SAP conditionalities, and the pressure to
achieve rapid economic growth at any cost. In India, the goal of
increasing the rate of economic growth has resulted in the acceptance
of many types of investment, some of them highly polluting;2 and the
granting of permission to transnational companies, such as Toyota,
Ford, and Mercedes, to produce diesel cars for the Indian market3
despite the fact that these produce 10100 times more particulate
matter than petrol engines and will lead to more pollution in the already
congested cities of the South (Down to Earth 1999). The pursuit of
economic growth also creates the need for new infrastructure, and
hence investment, which in turn leads to privatisation and
commercialisation, as the city governments are unable to raise new
resources. Instead, they direct their resources to new commercial
ventures, the poor are excluded, and the subsidies dry up. The urban
environment will not be improved, essentially because globalisation is
not conducive to sustainable development in cities of the South.

Sustainable urban development in India 139

The SCP and other techno-managerial approaches to sustainable
urban development treat the concept of sustainable cities as a
partnership among diverse interest groups. Satterthwaite (1996) sums
up the Habitat-II consensus to move towards sustainable cities and
sustainable human settlements as at best an illusion, as different
groups gave different meaning to the terms, which allowed the
international agencies to claim that they were the leaders in promoting
sustainable cities, when in reality they have contributed much to the
growth of cities where sustainable development goals are not met
(1996: 31). For cities to be genuinely sustainable would mean
considering the underlying economic, social, and political causes of
poverty or social exclusion (ibid.: 32).
The move towards a sustainable city in the South has to be an
inclusive approach based on four pillars:
environmental sustainability;
social equity;
economic growth with redistribution; and
political empowerment of the disempowered.
This holistic approach incorporates all dimensions of development,
including the interests of the poor and the disempowered. It would
challenge the existing unequal systems, from global to local, that have
led to unsustainable development. In its place it would generate an
equitable system to achieve sustainable human development that is
employment generating, resource recycling, waste minimising, socially
sustainable, and politically just. These four dimensions have to be
approached simultaneously in the process of development and not, as
at present, with one dimension taking precedence over the others
within a fragmented and sectoral approach to sustainable development.

Urban crises in India: the context of structural

adjustment programmes
India has a low level of urbanisation (26 per cent in 1991 and expected
to reach 33 per cent in 2001), a large urban population in absolute terms
(about 330 million in 2001), three of the 20 largest cities in the world
(Mumbai, Calcutta, and Delhi) and 23 cities of one million-plus
inhabitants, housing one third of the total urban population in 1991
(NIUA 1995). Its urban settlement pattern is concentrated in the
western and southern parts of the country (Shaw 1999), and there is a

140 Development and Cities

high incidence of urban poverty one person in every three overall
(Dubey and Gangopadhyay 1998; GOI 1997), and one person in five in
the metropolitan cities (Dubey and Mahadevia forthcoming).4 Large
cities are the focus of urban policies and programmes (Mahadevia
1999a), although poverty is concentrated in the small towns (Dubey
and Gangopadhyay 1999; Dubey et al. 2000), which also have lower
levels of basic services than the large cities (Kundu 1999).5 The latter
are integrated into the global system and the smaller towns into the
local economy, with no continuum between the two (Kundu 1999).
Urban employment has become more informal since the early 1980s
(Kundu 1996) as the manufacturing sector has become increasingly
capital intensive, leading to a decline in formal, secondary sector jobs.
Researchers attribute the declining rate of urbanisation during the
1980s to this phenomenon (Kundu 1996; Mohan 1996). Finally, the
urban sector contribution to the national economy increased from 29
per cent in 1951 to 55 per cent in 1991 (Suresh 2000).
In 1991, India began implementing its SAP and consequently the
urban development strategy shifted to supporting rapid economic
growth in place of balanced regional development.
In the era of economic reforms, liberalisation and globalisation, cities
and towns are emerging as centres of domestic and international
investment. Within this framework, urban development policy calls for
an approach that aims to optimise the productive advantages of cities
and towns, while at the same time minimise or mitigate the negative
impacts of urbanisation. (NIUA 1998: xiii)

The Ninth Five Year Plan (GOI 1998) thus proposed to address existing
regional inequalities by funding infrastructure development in the
undeveloped regions through raising resources, either from the financial
institutions or from the commercial market. It is also proposed to fund
social infrastructure in the same way.
In the post-SAP period, the focus has been on urban infrastructure.
The India Infrastructure Report (Expert Group on the Commercialisation
of Infrastructure Projects 1996) states that Rs2803.5 billion (US$74
billion, or US$7.5 billion per year at 1994 prices) will be required in
order to meet all urban infrastructure needs by 2005. In 1995, a total
of only Rs50 billion per year was available, so a strong case was made
to privatise the building and maintenance of urban infrastructure.
With respect to urban land, deregulation is underway. The Urban
Land Ceiling and Regulation Act of 1976, which sought to socialise

Sustainable urban development in India 141

urban land, was repealed in 1999. Land regulations are being gradually
relaxed in some cities (Mahadevia 1999b). It is argued that the best way
to make land available to the urban poor will be through efficient land
While the government is passing responsibility for urban development
to the market and the financial institutions, urban governance has been
decentralised through the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act of
1995. This Act allows for local communities to participate in local
development processes, but it also legitimises the transfer of
responsibility for development to lower levels of government. If only
those city governments that can raise market funds will be able to
promote development, opportunities to participate in the process will
vary across regions and different urban classes. This legislation may
therefore increase existing inequalities in urban systems.
Finally, an urban poverty alleviation programme, Swarna Jayanti
Sheri Rojgar Yojana (SJSRY, Golden Jubilee Urban Employment
Programme) was introduced in 1997. The SJSRY has two components:
self-employment and wage employment. The former consists of
financial and training assistance to individuals to set up gainful self-
employment ventures, and to groups of poor urban women to set up
collective ventures within the so-called Development of Women and
Children in the Urban Areas (DWUCA). Financial help takes the form
of microcredit from scheduled banks. Wage employment is to be
generated through the creation of public assets by local bodies. If the
SJSRY succeeds in generating regular wage employment, poverty may
decline; this is less likely if such employment is in the casual sector.
Throughout the urban sector, poverty is highest among households
supported by casual wage labour and self-employment (Dubey and
Mahadevia forthcoming). The self-employment component of SJSRY
depends on the poor taking out commercial loans from the official
banking system on the recommendation of local governments. This
does nothing to reduce bureaucracy. And the eradication of poverty
through self-employment implies far more than simply providing
credit, but includes access to markets and reasonably priced raw
materials, and favourable terms of trade for the products. The SJSRY
does not address these issues and thus represents a limited approach
to urban poverty.
Macro development processes after 1991 encourage economic
growth of a certain kind, but do not facilitate the reduction of social and
economic disparities or of poverty, nor do they promote sustainable

142 Development and Cities

livelihoods, empowerment, or social justice. Yet this is the context
within which environmental programmes for sustainable cities have
been undertaken.

Official programmes towards the sustainable city:

limited vision
Chennai, Hyderabad, Banglore, Delhi, and Calcutta have been directly
connected with the SCP. While Chennai was the only Indian partner
for SCP activities, other cities joined the Urban Environment Forum
(UEF) that was set up with the SCP as a primary partner (SCP 2000).
Some cities have received UNCHS Best Practice Awards, and three
belong to the IULA. All these efforts are the initiatives of city govern-
ments, as there is no national programme, only fragmented policies
and programmes that come under the sustainable cities umbrella, as
well as some city-level initiatives.6
Table 1 shows the official programmes and the spontaneous efforts
to create sustainable cities. The former are mainly centrally designed
programmes. Only a few of the local or state government efforts are
mentioned here, and only the environmental programmes listed here
will be discussed below.
Legal initiatives
The first law to address urban environmental aspects was the Water
Pollution (Prevention and Control) Act passed in 1974. This was
followed by the Air Pollution (Prevention and Control) Act in 1981 and
the Environment Protection Act of 1986. The latter deals with rules for
hazardous material and its disposal, toxic waste handling, and bio-
genetic material handling. In 1998, Bio-Medical Waste (Managing and
Handling) Rules were introduced to deal with hospital waste.
Another recent piece of legislation is the Motor Vehicles Act (MVA)
(1998), which is being strictly implemented in the large cities. It requires
that vehicles obtain regular Pollution Under Check certificates to
monitor levels of suspended particulate matter (SPM) and noxious gas
emissions. The Act also stipulates the retirement of old vehicles (as
defined by the local government) and the manufacturing of motor
vehicles according to European standards. In Delhi, vehicles older than
12 years are banned, while Hyderabad has fixed the level at 15 years.
Mumbai now insists that diesel-run taxis be converted to petrol as a
condition of registration. Taxi drivers challenged the legislation
declaring they could not afford the expense of conversion, but the High

Sustainable urban development in India 143

Table 1: Efforts towards sustainable cities in India

Four pillars Official efforts Spontaneous actions

Environmental Legal initiatives Legal initiatives

sustainability Sustainable City Programme Protests for environmental
(SCP) protection

Infrastructure projects Community-based efforts

Environmental management Private sector initiatives

Social equity Affirmative policies Rights movements

Economic growth Poverty alleviation Community-based

with redistribution programmes for addressing

Housing and shelter


Political Urban governance NGO-led capacity-building

empowerment decentralisation activities

Note: The above listed are not recognised as programmes for sustainable cities.
They would come under the sustainable city concept if the definition were
expanded and made inclusive.

Court gave them six months to do so. In Delhi, loans have been offered
to enable taxi drivers and three-wheeler drivers to convert old engines.
However, banning these polluting vehicles brings with it the fear of job
losses. There is a real conflict of interests here: improvement in air
quality for all versus employment for drivers. The solution lies in better
city planning, the development of efficient and affordable public
transport, job-creation schemes for taxi and three-wheeler drivers, and
the retirement of such vehicles from the road.
However, to judge by the pollution levels in Indian cities, this
legislation has had only limited impact. For instance, citizens groups
have gone to the higher courts to obtain injunctions against water-
polluting activities,7 but the Water Act is of limited effect as
industrialisation in some states is based on industries that cause water
pollution. Similarly, the MVA can only be partially effective because
while diesel vehicles are the main culprits of airborne pollution, the
government is permitting Indian foreign companies to produce and
market diesel vehicles locally.8 So, although environment legislation
exists, it will have little impact if economic growth continues to be
based on polluting activities.

144 Development and Cities

Sustainable City Programme (SCP)
The first city in India to join the SCP UNCHS/UNEP was Madras (now
renamed Chennai) in 1995. The programme aims to promote local
initiatives for environment management, and to improve the ability of
individuals and organisations to identify, understand, and analyse
environmental issues and incorporate them into sectoral programmes
in an integrated manner. This effort resulted in the preparation of the
1997 Environmental Profile, based upon city-level consultation, and
the framing of the Environmental Planning and Management (EPM),
Madras Vision 2000. The resulting consensus for improving the
infrastructural situation was produced in collaboration with the World
In Hyderabad City, an EPM was carried out while the Master Plan
2011 was being designed and urban environmental issues were
identified for incorporation into the Plan. The Plan proposed the
spread of urbanisation throughout the state by decentralising
economic development. To this end, the development of small ports
and improvement in the financial position of local bodies was
proposed, to be funded via an Urban Finance and Infrastructure
Development Corporation. Two SCP programmes in India have
concluded that more funds should be sought for city-level infra-
structure, but of the 23 metropolises, only two have carried out EPM
Bangalore and Calcutta are members of the UEF due to their
past efforts to take up environmental management programmes. In
Bangalore, from 1984 onwards, some slums have successfully been
relocated with community participation and local NGO help. The
Calcutta Metropolitan District (CMD) Environment Management
Strategy and Action Plan was prepared with the help of the British ODA
in the early 1980s.9 The top priority was the management of solid
waste. A pilot project was begun in each of the eight participating
municipalities, which entailed collection, transportation, and disposal
of solid waste through the active co-operation of beneficiaries and local
bodies. These pilot projects were successful, and the programme has
been extended to other municipalities.
Infrastructure projects
Infrastructural development is considered to be key to improving the
urban environment. For example, the construction of flyovers and the
widening of roads are expected to ease congestion and reduce air

Sustainable urban development in India 145

pollution. Water supply and sanitation infrastructure are supposed
to reduce water pollution. These projects are usually funded by
international loans. Since only large cities are able to prove that they are
creditworthy, they have been the main recipients of these loans.
The World Bank has been supporting urban infrastructure projects
throughout India since the early 1970s, principally urban development
projects and water supply and sanitation projects. Cumulative credit to
date totals US$1809.6 million (NIUA 1998) and, in some cities, nearly
half the capital budget consists of a World Bank loan (for Ahmedabad
see Mahadevia and DCosta 1997). Recently, the Asian Development
Bank (ADB) also entered the urban arena and committed itself to
support projects in Karnataka10 and Rajasthan (in six cities), give technical
assistance for the Calcutta Municipal Environmental Improvement
Programme (under consideration), and set up the Urban Environmental
Infrastructure Fund.11
Some foreign agencies advocate the direct participation of the
private and commercial sector. For example, USAID sponsors:
1 The Financial Institutions Reform and Expansion (FIRE) project
which would increase private investment in Indias long-term debt
market. This also puts emphasis on making the urban environmental
infrastructure finance system commercially viable and improving
the capacity of local government to plan, operate, maintain, and
recover the costs for basic urban services. Under this project, USAID
has pledged US$125 million from the US Housing Guarantee Fund
to be channelled through the financial institutions (NIUA 1998)
on condition that matching funds are raised locally;
2 The Technical Assistance and Support Project which gives grants to
organisations engaged in economic policy analysis;12
3 The Programme for Advancement of Commercial Technology;
4 Trade in Environmental Services and Technology that would work
towards addressing industrial pollution in India; and
5 The Centre for Technology Development (Technical Services
USAEP 1997).
The internationally funded Healthy Cities Programme (HCP), supported
by WHO, was started in the 1990s to build the local capacity required
for integrating environmental health concerns into all major urban
policies and programmes, including the Mega City Scheme, and taking
up HCP pilot projects in the five megacities, namely Bangalore,

146 Development and Cities

Calcutta, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Mumbai.13 The estimated cost of
the project is US$125 million, but its benefits will accrue only to these
five cities.
All large cities in India are keen to take up infrastructure projects to
improve the urban environment, an area on which funding agencies
concentrate. Interestingly, the sums pledged or invested by various
donor agencies are insignificant compared with those available from
Indias internal sources or even the demand projected by the India
Infrastructure Report. But these international agencies nevertheless
exert a strong influence on official programmes; for example, the FIRE
project is already mentioned in urban policy documents as an important
option for raising resources (NIUA 1998). The urban problem is
framed in such a manner that lack of finance is viewed as the major
impediment to improving urban infrastructure and hence the urban
environment. However, the capacity of cities to repay commercial loans
and the impact of such loans on equitable development within the
cities, find no mention.
Increased debt does not lead to sustainable development. Cities
that borrow at commercial rates have to invest in projects that give
immediate returns. Basic services projects, incorporating the interests
of the poor, cannot give the same returns as commercially viable
infrastructure projects. Debt-ridden cities will end up diverting their
funds and project-handling capabilities to deliver the commercially
viable projects, while the poor continue to live in degraded environments.
Since cities have just begun to borrow, most of it from international
agencies, the impact of such loans remains to be seen.
Environmental management
Solid Waste Management (SWM) projects dominate among environ-
mental management efforts in India. Some local governments have
tried to elicit the support of communities, NGOs, and private agencies
for such projects. In both Ahmedabad and Mumbai, a private company
is contracted to compost part of the city waste; in Mumbai, Bangalore,
and Chennai, NGOs are involved in the collection and disposal of waste
on behalf of the city government; in Pune, the local government has
encouraged the housing colonies to decompose their organic waste;
and in Rajkot, the city government is efficiently collecting the solid
waste (HSMI/WMC 1996). All these projects began in the early 1990s.
In Ahmedabad the World Bank donated Rs38 million to modernise
SWM practices and the collection consequently increased by three to

Sustainable urban development in India 147

four times, though cases where the NGOs and community groups are
participating in composting garbage include only a few hundred
households (HSMI/WMC 1996). In Andhra Pradesh, the municipal
administration has contracted out solid waste collection to the womens
groups formed under SJSRY (Rao 2000). This is a holistic approach
whereby local communities and government are participating to address
environment and poverty issues together. However, such initiatives
are rare.
Limited official vision
While local governments continue to provide basic city-level services,
our discussion here has focused only on special programmes. The
Government of India (GOI) has an important role in framing policies
and programmes for sustainable cities, particularly because the very
concept is multisectoral, multidepartmental, and comprehensive.
However, this is not the GOI perspective. First, the official vision of
sustainable urban development is limited to seeing this as an environ-
mental issue, which is then linked to the development infrastructure
through independent funding (GOI 1998). This is a simple, reductionist
approach to the sustainable development of cities. To pay for it, the GOI
has approached the multilateral and bilateral funding agencies and
sees nothing wrong in doing so. In the process, some government
programmes have been influenced by the funding agencies, something
to which the GOI apparently has no objection.
The GOI approach does not recognise the other three pillars of
sustainable development, despite the fact that poverty, the disempower-
ment of the majority, and poor basic services are serious urban
problems. It does not regard these problems as being interrelated or as
affecting the quality of the urban environment. The poverty-alleviation
programmes and decentralisation of urban governance are not viewed
as leading to sustainable urban development because urban
development is approached sectorally. That is, poverty alleviation is
viewed independently of infrastructure programmes, the decentralisation
of governance is not linked with financing of urban development, and
so on. Most of the international funding agencies also approach
development programmes in a sectoral manner. Given this shared
outlook, it is easy for the funding agencies to support sectoral
programmes without regard for their impact on other sectors. It may
not be far from the truth to say that many of the multilateral and
bilateral agencies have taken the opportunity provided by the term

148 Development and Cities

sustainable cities to open up new avenues for business in India in the
name of improving the urban environment. We see evidence for this
in the fact that Chennai and Hyderabad are demanding more financial
support, and that the FIRE project has been accepted as the official GOI
programme for raising commercial funds for urban infrastructure.
Legislation for improving the urban environment has either not
been implemented seriously (as with pollution control laws), in part for
fear of driving away new investment, or threatens the interests of
certain low-income groups. In legal interventions to improve the urban
environment, for example the MVA, techno-managerial solutions have
been advocated because the issue is seen in one-dimensional terms.
For example, after drivers in Delhi were compelled by law to change
their car engines, some fitted engines that run on compressed natural
gas (CNG). Demands that industries shift to non-polluting technologies
have led USAID to promote US imports under its Trade in Environmental
Services and Technology component.14 Legal solutions are only partial
and leave aside the question of what would constitute an appropriate
and sustainable model of development. The legal approach to dealing
with environmental pollution is neither holistic nor sustainable.

Spontaneous efforts towards sustainability:

fragmented efforts
While government efforts are restricted to a few sectors, and the focus
remains on improving the urban environment and infrastructure,
living conditions are becoming intolerable and problems of the urban
poor are not addressed. This situation is leading to spontaneous actions
(see Table 1), some of which are discussed below.
Legal initiatives
Many Public Interest Litigations (PILs) have been filed by individual
citizens or citizens groups seeking legal remedies for industrial
pollution (Mahadevia 1999c). The relocation of 9038 of the 100,000
industries in Delhi, ordered by the Supreme Court, is a landmark
judgment in response to a PIL (Shrivastava 1995). The Ganga Action
Plan to clean the River Ganga is the result of a PIL filed in the 1980s.
Similar plans have since been drawn up elsewhere. In Calcutta, the
fishing co-operative, which has been in existence since 1961 and is
involved in managing the wetlands that recycle city waste and support
fishing, filed a PIL to halt constructions that were diminishing the size
of the wetlands, and won (Development Associates 1996). In addition,

Sustainable urban development in India 149

individual citizens have filed suits in the State High Courts and the
Supreme Court of India against local urban bodies for neglecting
mandatory responsibilities such as enforcing the prohibition of non-
conforming land uses (mainly polluting industries) in the city master
plans. The shifting of polluting industries out of Delhi is an outcome
of such a PIL. Individual citizens groups have used PILs on the grounds
that the local government is failing to stop squatters from defecating
on public roads. Environmental groups in Mumbai obtained an
eviction order against squatters living in Borivali National Park, in an
effort to protect the ecosystem. Having recourse to the law has become
a way of protecting the urban environment when government systems
have failed. This is an important dimension of the urban environmental
movement in India, and the examples cited here are by no means
However, some of the PILs filed by citizens groups have also been
directly or indirectly against the interests of the poor, as illustrated
above. And, as we have already seen, legal initiatives have only limited
Grassroots protests for environment protection
Protest or resistance movements are important means by which affected
populations make their voices heard in policy making. In India, there
are many well-known rural environmental movements that protest
against the diversion of essential resources for urban and industrial use
and the dumping of urban and industrial waste in rural areas. There
have also been collective actions in urban areas, such as the PILs
described above.15 Other protests take the form of direct action. For
instance, People for Clean Air in Delhi asked the government to act
against industrial and vehicular pollution. In Udaipur City (known as
the city of lakes) in Rajasthan, local citizens have organised under the
Jheel Sanrakshan Samiti (Lake Protection Committee) to protect the
lakes from pollution and putrification caused by economic activities on
the lakefront, mainly connected with tourism, and to stop a new hotel
being built (Anand 1994). In Bhopal, different citizens groups and
academic and research institutions joined to protest against the
pollution of Lake Shahpura, an important source of drinking water, and
subsequently to clean it (Development Associates 1996). There are
many similar examples throughout the country.

150 Development and Cities

Community-based efforts
There is a long history of community-based efforts and experiments in
urban India, but our focus here is on community-based efforts to
manage the urban environment, especially the citys solid waste. One
successful NGO experiment is Exnora in Chennai. This started in
1989, when citizens expressed concern about deteriorating environ-
mental conditions and drew up an action plan to collect garbage through
placing new containers in the street, followed by an awareness-raising
campaign. The rag-pickers, renamed city-beautifiers, were given loans
by Exnora to purchase tricycles for door-to-door garbage collection and
street cleaning. They received monthly salaries from the residents,
from which they repaid the loans. Today, the city has 1500 Exnora units,
each servicing 75 families or 450,000 people. Many Exnoras have now
branched into other environmental activities such as monitoring the
pollution of waterways, canal desilting, tree planting, rainwater
harvesting for aquifer recharge (Chennai has severe water crises),
environmental education in schools, public information campaigns on
the environmental impacts of industrial development, slum
upgrading, and converting degradable waste into manure. Exnora
projects are thus multisectoral and address a wide range of issues
(Anand 1999).
Other cities have started similar activities. In Vadodara City in Gujarat,
Baroda Citizens Council, a local NGO, started garbage collection in
1992, engaging local unemployed young people and rag-pickers in
garbage collection at a monthly salary of Rs300400 (US$710), paid
by the residents. The recyclable waste (paper, plastic, metal containers,
etc.) is carried away by the rag-pickers and sold. The degradable waste
is converted to manure, and the rest is dumped as landfill. With the
support of USAID, this project has been extended to cover 20,000
households, i.e. 100,000 people in a city of some 1.2 million (Cherail
1994). Similar experiments are being carried out in some areas of Delhi
with input from local NGOs such as Vatavarn (environment) (Malik
1998). All these efforts address environmental and employment issues
simultaneously, but they are limited to a few cities and a few localities
within these cities.
Fragmented and localised efforts
The urban environmental movements in India have three basic
approaches: direct protest, protest through litigation, and concrete
development activities. All of these fit well within Local Agenda 21.

Sustainable urban development in India 151

In the case of development activities, the stakeholders themselves
participate in the development process and the NGOs act as catalysts.
But these are generally localised efforts and their replicability on a
larger scale remains a problem: they are simply too few in number and
touch only a very small fraction of the citys population (Exnora being
an exception). These fragmented efforts address one dimension of
development, but their sustainability and wider impacts remain
unknown. However, the macro context in which they take place is not
favourable to the environment and marginalised sectors of society.
The protest movements or resistance to the prevailing development
paradigm are just as important, but do not act in synergy. Development
activities are generally fragmented and seldom touch the structural
issues. The protest groups, which are engaged in political action, do not
convert any gains into policies and programmes for concrete
development work. In short, there is fragmentation, lack of synergy,
and a dichotomy between protests and spontaneous development
initiatives, and also among these initiatives themselves. There is
therefore a long way to go in making bottom-up urban development

An inclusive perspective from the South

Experience from India suggests that very little conceptual or practical
research exists on sustainable cities, a term often confused with the
SCP and other UN programmes. While sustainable development has
been critiqued from a Southern perspective, the same is not true of the
concept of sustainable cities which, in practice, is viewed as an
environmental concept that is techno-managerial in nature, with
aspects such as participation, decentralised governance and so on,
regarded as subservient to improving the urban environment. In India,
there is major government borrowing in order to build urban or
environmental infrastructure, first from international aid agencies,
and now from the commercial sector. This creates indebtedness and in
the long run excludes the poor from the urban development process.
Some of the new infrastructure, such as wide roads, flyovers, and
bridges (supposedly to decongest the roads and reduce air pollution),
are themselves generated by the flawed development model being
pursued. The GOI does not view the role of official aid agencies in this
light, however, and is keen to seek funding from them.
Since sustainable cities is understood in such a limited manner,
other national initiatives in India, such as poverty-alleviation programmes

152 Development and Cities

and decentralisation, are not viewed as falling within its framework. As
a result, there is no synergy between these various efforts, and the lack
of convergence in thinking and in action reduces their cumulative
impact. (The exception is in Andhra Pradesh where SWM and
employment-generation efforts have been simultaneously addressed
by the state government, by drawing on two otherwise separate initiatives.)
The Indian urban environmental movement is still nascent and, as
we have seen, its three components direct protests, litigation, and
constructive development activities (the latter usually promoted by
NGOs) are fragmented, localised, and too small scale to make a
noticeable impact. Seldom do development activities address the
multidimensional nature of urban development or succeed in working
at a city-wide level. Environmental and citizens groups tend not to look
at the wider development issues, so that their campaigns risk harming
the poor. Development groups often ignore environmental issues,
while protest movements and community-based development
initiatives rarely work together. Hence, the protests are not translated
into policies and programmes, while the benefits of community-based
development efforts are not sustainable because they fail to address the
macro context.
In India, mainstream debates on the subject look at either urban
development or at sustainable cities, and tend to overlook people-
centred approaches. Urban development and economic growth are
regarded as synonymous, with cities viewed as economic entities that
contribute to overall economic growth. Efforts to create a clean, liveable
environment and to reduce social inequalities are subsumed into this
efficiency paradigm.
Outstanding concerns in India
The sustainable development of cities in the South is possible only
when the prime development issues are addressed, including steps to
protect the environment. In India (and elsewhere in the South), issues
that require immediate attention are:
1 secure housing rights;
2 provision and access to civic amenities, and a clean, safe, and healthy
living environment for all;
3 adequate provision and access to adequate public health facilities,
basic education, safe and sufficient drinking water, and food security;
4 freedom from violence and intimidation on the basis of social

Sustainable urban development in India 153

5 sustainable livelihoods; and
6 adequate and appropriate provision of, and access to, social security
It is possible to address these concerns while also protecting the
environment only within a favourable macro development model in
which the government can play a significant role. Some of the main
requirements are (i) effective government policies to reduce overall
inequality in the cities, and between the rural and urban areas;
(ii) democratic urban development processes that meet the needs of the
disadvantaged, not only those of businesses or funding agencies, and
institutions through which the most disadvantaged participate in
macro decisions; (iii) economic growth through activities that are non-
polluting; (iv) a sound regulatory mechanism to check unsustainable
activities through the participation of civil society; and (v) government
responsibility for promoting human development.

Inclusive and synergetic approach

The approach to sustainable cities in the South has to be inclusive,
placing the vision of the poor and marginalised urban sectors at
the centre of urban policy making. Thus, development processes,
programmes, and projects need to be multidimensional and multi-
sectoral. The term inclusive implies the inclusion of all citizens and
all dimensions of development, the convergence of thinking and action
and of different aspects of development. This is the only sustainable
way in which to address the major concerns listed above, and the only
way in which to achieve sustainable human development. In other
words, development and empowerment of the poor have to take place
in such a manner that the environment is protected. If the urban
environment deteriorates, it is the poor who are most affected. The role
of the government, especially local government, is to see that synergies
are built between development programmes and their various
stakeholders government and civil society, micro- and macro-level
institutions, and so on.
This is no straightforward matter, as many conflicting situations
need to be addressed at once. For example, if polluting industries
whose employees belong to a marginalised group are closed down,
then this raises issues of social equity and employment. These
contradictions have to be addressed simultaneously, as to look at the
pollution problem in isolation will not lead to a sustainable solution.

154 Development and Cities

Similarly, the improvement of urban air quality does not simply mean
getting rid of the polluting vehicles, but also creating alternative
employment for those who lose their livelihoods as a result, developing
a public transport system, discouraging private vehicles, and suspending
car production so that even the better-off shift to public transport.
More critical still is a macro development climate that is pro-people,
pro-women, pro-poor, and pro-environment so that any achievements
will be sustained. Equally important is that organisations of civil society
work together the protest groups, development groups, and environ-
mental groups so that each builds a holistic vision of development
and does not inadvertently harm the interests of the poor. However, in
India today, partial (sectoral) vision and a techno-managerial approach
exclude the poor.
At the start of this paper, we argued that the concept of sustainable
cities rests on four pillars, all of which need to be addressed simultaneously
in development processes, programmes, and projects. For example,
environmental programmes should link in with employment, poverty
alleviation, and social equity programmes. Micro-level initiatives
should be linked with wider strategies. Political empowerment has to
be comprehensive and not only at the local level, as envisaged by the
current urban governance approach. Environmental sustainability is not
just about managing the environment but also about finding a
development model that does not generate unmanageable waste, an
impossibility when there is such inequality between the North and the
South and within the North. Inequality generates unsustainable
consumption levels too low among the poor of the South and
unsustainably high among the rich of the South and the North in
general. An inclusive approach to sustainable cities in the South
addresses development and sustainability in a holistic manner at every
level, from the global to the local.

Acknowledgement Notes
The author has benefited greatly from 1 The proverb is in Gujarati.
the comments by David Westendorff on 2 For example, in the state of Gujarat,
the first draft and is grateful to him. the second most industrialised state
of India, from 1991 onwards, 79 per
cent of new investment is generated
by polluting industries (Mahadevia

Sustainable urban development in India 155

3 Diesel cars are cheaper to run than here states that cities and towns have
petrol cars. By giving permission to to be economically efficient, socially
increase the production of diesel cars, equitable, and environmentally
the government wants to increase sustainable (NIUA 1998: xiii). The
the purchases of cars, which will in focus is thus on the urban environ-
turn improve the growth statistics. ment rather than on sustainable cities.
4 In India, varying estimates of poverty, 7 In Gujarat, citizens groups have been
rural as well as urban, derive from very active in approaching the Gujarat
disagreements on how to calculate High Court, seeking legal remedies
the poverty line. The poverty ratios are for water pollution (Mahadevia
calculated on the basis of consumer 1999c).
expenditure surveys. These figures 8 This is partially effective because new
are for 19934, the last year such vehicles, including the diesel ones,
consumption expenditure surveys arrive with new technology (Reddy
were available. 2000).
5 Small towns are defined as having 9 Now the Department for International
fewer than 50,000 inhabitants. Development (DFID).
6 There is no national urban policy 10 The Project costs US$132 million
document. Urban policies can be (ADB loan US$85 million) and the
discerned from the Five Year Plans, main focus is to decentralise
annual reports of the Central Ministry economic growth from the rapidly
of Urban Development, and national- expanding Bangalore city to four
level urban policy and research selected towns.
institutes such as the National 11 This is to assist the GOI to develop
Institute of Urban Affairs. The Ninth urban and environmental infra-
Five Year Plan (GOI 1998) treats structure, to leverage private sector
urban development under Land, and external resources for urban
Housing, and Basic Services, and is development and environmental
concerned with the growing gap improvement, and to prepare suitable
between the demand and supply of projects involving publicprivate
basic services. The NIUA document investment for financing under the
mentions Agenda 21 as a global action Fund.
plan to integrate environmental 12 One of the programmes is support
considerations in the development to the Centre for Environmental
process (NIUA 1998: 131). It identifies Planning and Technology (CEPT),
the importance of promoting an academic institution, to assist city
sustainable human settlement and governments to prepare their baseline
the initiatives of local authorities. The reports and develop strategies for
latter is of particular interest as it calls solid waste management. USAID
for interaction, participation, and took the opportunity arising from an
involvement of the community and Expert Committee Report prepared at
local authorities in the planning and the behest of the Supreme Court that
management of the urban ecosystem. gave guidelines for SWM in 300
The action areas identified are Class-I cities in India in April 1999.
environmental management, pollution 13 The Mega City Scheme is applicable
control, and environmental protection. to Bangalore, Calcutta, Chennai,
The vision of urban development Hyderabad, and Mumbai and would

156 Development and Cities

make loans available from the fund Cornia, G., R. Jolly, and F. Stewart (1987)
set aside by central government. Adjustment with a Human Face:
14 One initiative is the signing of the Protecting the Vulnerable and Promoting
IndianUS treaty, to which the Growth, Oxford: Clarendon Press
Confederation of Indian Industry was Development Associates (1996)
party, for the import of environ-ment- NGOs/Civic societies and urban
friendly technology from the USA environmental advocacy, in B.N.
(Banerji 1995). Singh, S. Maitra, and R. Sharma (eds)
15 For example, in the state of Gujarat, Urban Environment Management: The
a number of PILs were filed by Indian Experience, New Delhi: Housing
individuals against chemical pollution Settlement Management Institute,
from industrial estates. The High and Rotterdam: Institute for Housing
Court of Gujarat in most cases and Urban Development Studies
directed the estates to set up Down to Earth (1999) Licence to Kill,
Common Effluent Treatment Plants Down to Earth 8(2): 367
(CETPs). The CETPs dilute the Dubey, A. and D. Mahadevia (forthcoming)
industrial waste but do not treat the Poverty and inequality in Indian
toxic and hazardous chemicals it Metropolises, Indian Journal of Labour
contains. Such CETPs are therefore Economics
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caused by the rapid growth of Counting the Poor: Where are the Poor
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Sustainable urban development in India 159

Urban crisis in India:
new initiatives for sustainable cities

P.G. Dhar Chakrabarti

India no longer lives in villages. At the dawn of the new millennium,

300 million Indians lived in its nearly 3700 towns and cities, in sharp
contrast to only 60 million in 1947 when the country became
independent. During the last 50 years the population of India has
grown two and half times, but the urban population has grown nearly
five times. In absolute terms, Indias urban population is the second
largest in the world after Chinas, and is almost twice the combined
urban population of France, Germany, and the UK.
Yet, in relative terms India is still one of the least urbanised of the
developing countries, with less than 30 per cent of its population living
in towns, compared with 80 per cent in Brazil, 45 per cent in Egypt, and
35 per cent even in neighbouring Pakistan. But this scenario is
changing fast.
While the rate of growth of population in the country is declining
(from 2.16 per cent in 1991 to 1.9 per cent in 1999) the urban
population is increasing more quickly (from 3.1 per cent in 1991 to 3.6
per cent in 1999) and demographers believe that it may grow even
faster in the coming years. The urban population is expected to swell
to 410 million in 2011, 550 million in 2021, and 800 million in 2041
when it will surpass that of China. At that point urban India will be
larger than the total population of the whole of Europe (NIUA 2000).
This explosive situation has not been adequately appreciated at the
national and international level. It is important, however, to focus on
certain disturbing features of Indias urban experience in order to
highlight the implications of this growth in terms of sustainability.
For instance, there are large imbalances and disparities in the spatial
patterns of urbanisation as measured by inter-regional and sizeclass
distribution. While the western states of Maharastra, Goa, and Gujarat
are nearly 40 per cent urban, the eastern states of Orissa and Bihar lag
far behind at 13 per cent. This has been both a cause and a consequence

160 Development and Cities

of inter-regional migration. Surplus labourers from the relatively
impoverished regions are crowding into urban centres in search of
work and will continue to do so unless employment opportunities are
created in the rural areas of the so-called backward states. Slightly over
40 per cent of urban growth in India has been a result of migration
from the rural areas (NIUA 1988) and much of it has been dictated
more by the absence of opportunities in these areas than by the
presence of opportunities in the urban areas. Instead of contributing
to urban growth as such, this has only impoverished the urban centres
(Singh and Steinberg 1996). Therefore, the sustainability of urban
growth in India is thus very strongly related to the development of rural
areas, especially the backward pockets.
The imbalance in sizeclass distribution is another factor contributing
to the abnormal growth of bigger cities. And while many of these are
on the verge of collapse, many smaller cities lack adequate impetus for
growth. Intra-city migration from smaller to bigger cities is continuing
along with the migration from rural to urban areas. The governments
Integrated Development of Small and Medium Towns scheme (IDSMT)
has not been able to reverse this trend. Table 1 indicates the growth
pattern of cities in India.
The percentage share of population living in Class I cities has
increased sharply from 44.6 per cent in 1951 to 65.2 per cent in 1991,
but has also declined in all other sectors, except in Class II towns, which
have remained more or less the same. Again within the Class I cities,
the share of population in metropolitan (1 million or more inhabitants)
and megacities (10 million or more inhabitants) has been dispro-
portionately higher. About one third of urban India is already living in
metropolitan cities and this figure is expected to increase to 60 per cent

Table 1: Classes of Indian cities by size of population

Year Class I Class II Class III Class IV Class V Class VI All classes
100,000+ 50,000 20,000 10,000 5000 less than
99,000 49,999 19,999 9999 5000

1951 27.5 m 6.1 m 9.7 m 8.4 m 8m 1.9 m 61.6 m

(44.6%) (10%) (15.7%) (13.6%) (13%) (3.1%)

1991 139.1 m 23.4 m 28.1 m 16.6 m 5.5 m 0.6 m 213.3 m

(65.2%) (11%) (13.1%) (7.8%) (2.6%) (0.3%) (100%)

Source: Census of India (1991)

Urban crisis in India 161

in the next two decades. Of the total increase in the countrys urban
population of 58 million between 1981 and 1991, 44 million were added
to Class I cities alone, 28 million of which joined the metropolitan
cities. The number of metropolitan cities in the country has grown
from one in 1901 to five in 1951, and to 23 in 1991. It is estimated that
it will further increase to 40 by 2001, 52 by 2011, and 75 by 2021
(Singh and Steinberg 1996). Similarly, the number of Indian megacities
will double from the current three (Calcutta, Delhi, and Mumbai) to
six by the year 2021 (new additions will be Bangalore, Chennai, and
Hyderabad), when India will have the largest concentration of
megacities in the world.
The unplanned and uncontrolled growth of large cities has had
negative effects on urban dwellers and their environment. The
provision of infrastructure and services required for large and
concentrated populations lags far behind the pace of urbanisation.
Consequently, the urban environment, particularly in large cities,
is deteriorating rapidly. Cities and towns are facing serious shortages
of power, water, sewerage, developed land, housing, transportation,
communication, and other facilities.
Imperfections in land and housing markets and exorbitant
increases in land prices have left the urban poor with virtually no
alternative except to seek housing in the mushrooming slums. About
one third of urban dwellers live below the poverty line and in
subhuman conditions in such slums, without access to the basic
minimum facilities of drinking water, sanitation, medical care, and
public hygiene (CSO 1997). The disparities in living conditions
between slums and other areas are a potential cause of crime and
social unrest in the large cities, which are no longer considered safe.
According to official statistics, 85 per cent of the urban population
has safe drinking water. The average availability is less than four
hours per day, however, and in some areas water is supplied only for
one hour on alternate days (ADB 1997). Many people are forced to
draw water from unsafe sources, which leads to widespread waterborne
diseases like diarrhoea, hepatitis, roundworm, etc. The effect on
public health and hygiene is telling. A recent study has indicated
that about 30.5 million Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) are
lost each year owing to the poor quality of drinking water and the
absence of sanitation facilities.1 The financial loss in terms of
productivity has been quantified at Rs360 billion (US$9 billion)
annually (MUD 2000b).

162 Development and Cities

Only 49 per cent of the population in the cities have sanitation
facilities and the rest use either dry latrines or defecate in the open. Out
of 3700 towns in the country, only 72 have partial sewerage facilities
and 17 have some form of primary treatment facilities before final
About 39 million tonnes of solid waste is generated in the urban
areas every day. Of this not more than 60 per cent is collected daily,
which leads to the accumulation and decomposition of waste in public
places with its adverse effects on public health. There is no
arrangement for the processing of waste except in a few cities where
composting is done on a limited scale.
Road space per Passenger Car Unit (PCU) is declining steadily in all
cities. Traffic congestion is assuming critical dimensions in many
metropolitan cities owing to a massive increase in the number of
private vehicles, inadequate road space, and lack of public transport.
This extreme congestion results in ever-slower speeds, an increasing
accident rate, fuel wastage, and environmental pollution. Air-pollution-
related health problems are reaching disturbing proportions in some
Indias urban centres are becoming lethal gas chambers. Most of the air
quality standards in India are considerably more lax than those of the
World Health Organisation. The WHO has rated Delhi the fourth-most
polluted city in the world. (CSE 2000)

Unless a massive investment is made to improve urban infrastructure

and living conditions significantly, most of the cities in India are
heading for a major crisis. The Ninth Plan Working Group has
estimated the investment requirement for housing in urban areas at
Rs528 billion for the next five years (Planning Commission 1998). The
annual investment needed for urban water supply, sanitation, and
roads is estimated at approximately Rs280 billion for the next ten years
(CPHEEO 1996). The Central Public Health Environmental Engineering
Organisation (CPHEEO) has estimated the requirement of Rs1729
billion for total coverage of the urban population with safe water supply
and sanitation services (DEA 1986). Estimates by Rail India Technical
and Economic Services (RITES) indicate that the amount required for
urban transport infrastructure investment in cities for a population of
100,000 or more during the next 20 years will be of the order of
Rs2070 billion (RITES 1997). Against this, the combined investment
of central, state, and local authorities from budgetary as well as

Urban crisis in India 163

institutional sources (both domestic and foreign) in housing, water
supply, sanitation, and transport is approximately Rs80 billion
annually, or less than 10 per cent of the requirement (Planning
Commission 1998). This sums up the enormous urban problem in
India, which assumes more critical dimensions with each passing day.

Sustainable cities: philosophy and context

What would a sustainable city mean in the context of the urban crisis,
which has brought the large cities to breaking point? The Oxford English
Dictionary defines sustainable as the ability to be maintained at a
certain rate or level. This implies that there is no fixed standard of
sustainability since it varies according to the context in which it is
defined. The standard of sustainability differs from country to country
according to its level of development. Environmentalists propose a
more neutral and stringent standard of sustainability as the
conservation of an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural
resources (UNCHS 1998). In the urban context this would mean the
resources of pure air, water, soil, flora, and fauna.
The environmental definition of sustainability is both too wide and
too narrow: wide in the sense that it takes pristine nature as its
standard, something that would by definition render three quarters of
existing human settlements unsustainable; narrow in the sense that it
ignores complex issues that have led human development to the state
it is in today. Since human development has not followed a uniform
pattern, it is futile and unrealistic to set a uniform standard of what
constitutes a sustainable city, irrespective of the level of development.
A more pragmatic and realistic definition of a sustainable city is one
that maintains the physical, human, and environmental standards it
has set for itself and has the capacity, resources, and capability to
achieve these. This calls for sustainability of governance and for
sustainability of resources without which the sustainable city is only
a slogan.
The cities of India are facing the accumulated effects of past neglect
when their affairs were not left to the citizens but to the extraneous
forces of party politics and bureaucratic interference, when state
control and the proliferation of parastatal agencies marginalised city
governments, when cheap populist measures overshadowed sound
financial considerations, when a kind of urban laissez-faire prevailed
over discipline and control, when a culture of subsidy and concession
was allowed to rule over cost effectiveness, when responsible and

164 Development and Cities

capable urban leadership was not allowed to develop, and when
developing the capacity of urban managers was not a concern. Urban
crisis in India is an accumulation of years of neglect of the local urban
bodies. A sustainable city cannot be built on the basis of direction and
control from provincial or state governments; it has ultimately to rest
on the initiative and efforts of local citizens, the involvement and
commitment of the local community, the vision and understanding of
local leaders, and the capacity and capability of local managers.
All these are the essential ingredients of successful local self-
government, but unfortunately, despite Indias strong and vibrant
democracy at the provincial and national level, city-level democracy has
not really been allowed to flourish. City governments were treated more
as an appendage of provincial government than as governments in
their own right. This is ironic, as the institutional machinery of Indias
city governments was set up as early as the mid-nineteenth century and
some of the great national leaders in pre-independence days were
apprentices of leaders in city governments.

Initiatives for urban reform

The first model of city government in India was set up by the British.
The considerations were twofold, to allow the natives to rule over their
own local affairs as a strategy to absorb dissent, but to allow only limited
autonomy for maintaining control over the larger policy issues. The
statutes governing the city governments underwent change after
independence, but control of the urban local bodies continued.
Provincial governments were given overriding powers to sanction
municipal budgets, to approve municipal taxation, to take away
municipal functions, to set up parastatal organisations to deal with
such functions, and even to suspend and dissolve municipal governments
for an indefinite period. The result was that city governments lost their
importance and ability to take decisions and became an appendage of
state governments. Party politics at the state level were passed down to
the city level and city-level consensus on the major issues was not
allowed to develop. In short, the citizens remained alienated from
The first major initiative to reform urban governance was taken in
1992 when the Constitution of India was amended (74th Amendment)
to incorporate certain revolutionary changes in the organisation,
powers, functions, and jurisdictions of the urban local bodies. For the
first time, city governments were given a constitutional status and

Urban crisis in India 165

released from the shackles of provincial governments. The Constitution
of India formally recognised the city government as the third tier of
government below the state and central governments.
Second, the powers of state governments to suspend or dissolve city
governments were abolished. If a city government is to be dissolved,
fresh elections must be held and a new elected body must be in place
within a period of six months from the date of dissolution.2 The era of
prolonged suspension of city governments has come to an end.
Third, the Constitution provided that, apart from the city-level
councillors, wardens are also to be popularly elected at the ward level
and Ward Committees set up to interact with the citizens. These
changes institutionalise the role of the grassroots in city governance.
Fourth, the Constitution defined the powers of the civic bodies and
appended a separate schedule of their functions as follows:
urban planning, including town planning;
regulation of land use and construction;
maintenance of roads and bridges;
supply of water for domestic, industrial, and commercial purposes;
public health, sanitation, conservancy, and solid waste
provision of fire services;
urban forestry, protection of the environment, and promotion of
ecological aspects;
slum improvement and upgrading;
urban poverty alleviation;
planning of social and economic development;
safeguarding the interests of weaker sections of society, including
the physically and mentally disabled;
provision of amenities and facilities such as parks, gardens, and
public amenities, including street lighting, parking lots, bus-stops,
and public conveniences;
regulation of slaughter houses and tanneries
promotion of cultural, educational, and aesthetic aspects; and
collection of key statistics, including registration of births and

166 Development and Cities

Finally, the Constitution stipulated that every state is obliged to assign
city governments such taxes, duties, and tolls that are levied, collected,
and appropriated by them and ensure that the city governments are not
discriminated against in the allocation of resources. The Constitution
further provides that every state shall constitute a State Finance
Commission (SFC) to decide which resources will devolve to the city
governments in order to enable them to discharge their functions.
All these revolutionary changes will revitalise the city governments
in the long run, but the pace of implementation has been so abysmally
slow that their impact is yet to be felt. Elections to urban local bodies
have been held in all but two states. Most of the state governments have
either enacted a set of new municipal laws or amended the existing laws
to bring them into line with the constitutional changes. Reports of
many of the SFCs have also been brought into line, but considerable
confusion persists with regard to the functions and jurisdictions of the
city governments. A host of parastatal bodies set up in each state to deal
with important functions like water supply, sewerage, urban planning,
housing, etc. have not been brought under the jurisdiction of the civic
bodies.3 Similarly, the line departments of the state government
continue to deal with many of the functions that have been assigned to
the cities. On the financial side, there has not been much devolution of
resources, primarily because there has not been much devolution of
functions and responsibilities. Therefore, the amendment to the
Constitution notwithstanding, the status quo prevails largely because
parastatal bodies already have their own statutory character and
expertise, which civic bodies do not.4 Yet no significant effort has been
made for building the capacity of civic bodies.
The urban reform agenda of taxation and financial reform,
institutional reform, unbundling of services, privatisation, etc., that
should have followed the constitutional changes, has not taken place at
all in most cities and been initiated only at a slow pace in a few. The
status quo is that of continuing poor governance in most of the cities.5
There is considerable scope for generating sizeable resources from
the cities through reforms in the system of property tax assessment and
collection, and rationalisation of utility charges. However, there is no
incentive for city governments to take such unpopular measures
since most of the utilities are managed at state level, and managed so
inefficiently that it will take real courage to break the coterie of
vested interests that run them. The will and vision to do so are not

Urban crisis in India 167

A truncated urban government cannot be expected to push the
reform agenda and transform cities into self-sustaining and sustainable
units of governance. What is required is a reform in the reform
process before it is too late.6 If the push does not come from the top it
will have to come from the bottom, as is now occurring in many
dispersed initiatives (see Mahadevia in this volume).7

Sustainable technology
Despite the constraints of poor urban governance, there has been some
advance made in adopting and propagating a few innovative, low-cost,
and environmentally sustainable technologies for solving some of
Indias pressing urban problems. This has been made possible through
the effort of a few individuals and organisations, and by grants from
central government and soft credit from international financial
institutions. Three major initiatives in this regard are the techniques
of low-cost sanitation, low-cost housing, and rainwater harvesting. But
the spread of these technologies has been severely restricted because
of poor urban governance, an inefficient delivery system for extending
the incentives, and the non-involvement of civil society in any
meaningful manner in terms of creating awareness of the benefits and
efficacy of these technologies. These observations are based on my
decade-long experience of urban management in India.
Low-cost sanitation
The low-cost sanitation movement has made some progress not only
to provide an affordable solution to the problem of open defecation in
the cities but also to do away with the demeaning practice of manual
collection of human excreta, which has traditionally been carried out
by low-caste groups. Mahatma Gandhi had started his political career
with a campaign to liberate the scavengers, but it was not until 1993
that manual scavenging was declared illegal by an Act of Parliament
and since then the Government of India (GOI) has taken up a massive
programme of conversion of dry latrines into pour-flush latrines in the
urban areas and rehabilitation of the scavengers.
The pour-flush latrine consists of: (a) a specially designed squatting
pan, (b) a trap with a 20mm water seal to prevent the emission of
odours and fly and mosquito nuisance, (c) two leaching pits which
retain solid matter and allow liquid to leach and gases to disperse into
the ground, and (d) an interconnecting system between pits and trap.
The excreta are carried into subsurface leach pits through pipes or

168 Development and Cities

covered drains and one pit is used at a time. The liquid seeps into the
soil through the holes in the pit lining. The gases also disperse into the
soil so a vent pipe is not necessary. When the one pit is full, the excreta
are diverted automatically to the second pit. The filled chamber can be
conveniently emptied after a rest period of 18 months, during which
time pathogens are activated and the organic matter decomposed.
Thus, the two pits can be used alternately and continuously (UNDP 1992).
A five-user pour-flush latrine costs as little as Rs4500 (equivalent to
US$100), while a ten-user unit costs Rs8000.
The pour-flush water seal latrines are low in cost but involve high
technology. They comprise a collection, transmission, and treatment
system all within one on-site facility, which is hygienic, safe, and
satisfactory. In addition, the technology is internally and externally
upgradeable, meaning that the toilet interiors can be upgraded to
accommodate improved systems such as the incremental flush.
Furthermore, the system can be externally connected to sewers, if
enhanced water-supply levels and sewerage can be afforded (HUDC 1988).
Since 19891990, the GOI has been supporting this low-cost
sanitation technology with a mixture of subsidies and soft loans, which
vary in scale according to the paying capacity of the user (see Table 2).
The scheme called the Liberation of Scavengers has been taken up
on a whole-town basis so that the problem is solved for the town once and
for all and the scavengers do not return to their original occupation.
Simultaneously, a massive rehabilitation and training programme for
scavengers has been launched to help them to pursue alternative vocations,
and this is backed up with soft credit to set up microenterprises (MUD 1999).
In most towns, the survey and identification of dry latrines, the
location and design of pour-flush latrines, and supervision of construction
have been entrusted to the engineering wing of the civic bodies. NGOs,
community-based organisations, and self-help groups have been involved
in a few cities, but more as implementing agencies than as partners or
stakeholders of the programme.

Table 2: Forms of GOI support for low-cost sanitation technology

User category Subsidy (%) Loan (%) User contribution (%)

Economically weaker sectors 45 50 5

Low-income groups 25 60 15
High-income groups Nil 75 25

Urban crisis in India 169

During the decade since the scheme began, 900,000 low-cost
sanitation units have been constructed, and 30,000 scavengers liberated
from the inhuman practice of manual scavenging. But this does not
mean that the problem has been solved, as 6,300,000 more dry latrines
have yet to be converted into pour-flush latrines and, until that has
been done, the problem of manual scavenging will persist despite the
legal restrictions. The problem remains one of both resources and
management. It is estimated that a subsidy of Rs25.2 billion and soft
credit of Rs63 billion will be required to convert all the dry latrines.
Against this, the government allocates annually Rs270 million in
subsidies and Rs1080 million in loans. The irony is that even this
meagre amount is not fully deployed, and an accumulated unspent
subsidy of Rs1 billion will reportedly have accrued by the end of financial
year 19992000 (MUD 2000b). This points to the abysmal capacity of
the urban local bodies and the low involvement of civil society in
implementing such socially and environmentally sustainable schemes.
Low-cost housing
The Indian Building Centre movement for the promotion of low-cost
housing technology is another example of how technology can mitigate
the problem of having only few resources. High land prices and
construction costs have driven as many as 100 million urban poor to
seek refuge in the proliferating urban slums, although these are
dangerously lacking the basic amenities of sanitation, drinking water,
drainage, etc.. In many long-established slums, the emphasis has been
to take up in situ development of basic amenities. In most other places,
city agencies have resettled slum-dwellers on alternative sites at
subsidised rates. The GOI has set a target of construction of 700,000
additional houses every year for the economically weaker sectors and
low-income groups in the urban areas.
Much research has gone into the development of low-cost
construction and design technology in order to permit poor people to
own their houses. The thrust of this initiative has been to recycle
various forms of industrial, agricultural, and domestic waste to provide
new building materials that are affordable, sustainable, and environ-
mentally friendly. Some of the new materials are listed in Table 3.
These new materials are not only energy efficient and environmentally
friendly, but also cost effective: up to 2530 per cent cheaper than
conventional materials and 1520 per cent more energy efficient to
manufacture and use.

170 Development and Cities

Table 3: Materials developed for low-cost construction

Waste materials New building materials

Industrial waste
Fly and bottom ash from thermal Bricks
power plants
Cement factory waste Asbestos
Basalt, slate, and laterite stone waste Blast furnace slag
Coal washery waste Copper/ferro-alloy slag
Gypsum mine waste Iron railings
Limestone waste/lime sludge Low-grade aggregates
Mica scrap Phosphogypsum
Red mud/bauxite waste Steel-making slags

Agricultural waste
Rice husks, jute stalk, bagasse Insulation boards, panels, roofing sheets

Domestic waste
Used paper, cartons, plastic bags Fence posts, roofing sheets

The GOI is attempting to stimulate production of low-cost building

materials by exempting the Building Centres production of materials
and components from excise duty. It also offers a 25 per cent exemption
in the organised industrial sector, a reduction in the customs duty on
imports of equipment, machinery, and capital goods required to
produce building materials that require fly ash (a by-product of coal)
and phosphogypsum, and a total exemption of excise duty on doors,
windows, etc. made from aluminium, steel, plastics, and other
materials that will reduce the exploitation of Indias forest resources.
Much research has also gone into the development of small
machines for producing building materials on a small scale. An
autonomous organisation called the Building Materials and Technology
Promotion Council (BMTPC) was set up with the responsibility for co-
ordinating research efforts in this area. The Council has developed a
number of machines that have become quite popular. The machines
make reinforced concrete construction doors and window frames,
stabilised mud-blocks, sand-lime fly ash bricks, clay fly ash bricks,
red-mud jute polymer door shutters, a coal stoker system for
conventional brick kilns, a finger-jointing and shaping machine for
plantation timber, a machine for making corrugated roofing sheets
based on bamboo, and so on (BMTPC 1996).

Urban crisis in India 171

Innovative building designs, such as interlocked cluster housing,
organised common spaces, and incremental house design, have been
introduced to minimise ground coverage, and reduce construction
costs, while at the same time enhancing the aesthetic qualities of low-
income housing.
Recognising that the propagation and extension of new cost-
effective and energy-efficient building technologies at the grassroots
requires innovative approaches, the GOI began setting up a national
network of Building Centres in 19881989. So far, 400 such centres in
district towns promote new cost-effective building materials by
providing a variety of services to prospective producers and users.
These include: disseminating and demonstrating cost-effective
technologies; training artisans, entrepreneurs, and small contractors;
advising householders; and producing low-cost materials and
components to meet local housing needs. A number of centres are also
producing new building materials and components. Encouraged by the
results of these efforts, the GOI has now decided to establish similar
centres in rural areas in every district of the country. Many of the newly
trained artisans have set up production units to cater for local needs.
Despite these initiatives, low-cost housing technology has not
replaced the conventional construction technology for poor households.
An Expert Group set up to study the working of the Building Centres
estimated in 1992 that of the total housing stock of economically
weaker sections, not even 10 per cent had adopted the new technology
and materials (MUD 1992). Things have not changed much since then.
Rainwater harvesting
Excessive extraction of groundwater and the limited open space for
recharge in some of the cities have resulted in a sharp decline in the
water table. This is manifested by the failure of tube wells, deterioration
in groundwater quality, and saline water ingress. The problem has
become acute in some cities, especially during summer, when drinking
water has to be carried from distant sources, resulting in high costs and
strict water rationing. Water strife and riots have become regular
features in some of the towns of western and southern India during the
summer months, and in Rajkot, for example, the police have been
asked to supervise the distribution of the water to avoid violence and
clashes among residents.
In the National Capital Territory of Delhi only 2.8 million m3 of water
can be supplied per day for domestic use while the daily demand is for

172 Development and Cities

4.88 million m3. The available surface water from the Yamuna River is
grossly insufficient and must be made up from groundwater.
Unplanned withdrawal of groundwater has resulted in a drop in the
water level and a deterioration in the quality of groundwater in
many places. Ironically, the 600mm of rainfall Delhi receives during
monsoons drains mostly into the river. Recharge to the subsurface is
minimal because most of the surface is occupied by buildings or roads.
The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), in collaboration with
the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, has been conducting
Experimental Artificial Recharge Studies (EARS). Based on the results
of its experiments, a viable and sustainable technology for recharging
groundwater is now available in deficit areas. This technology is
ready to be applied, and a few water-deficit cities have already begun
doing so (CGWB 1998).
The Madras Metropolitan Development Authority has made rooftop
rainwater harvesting (RTRWH) mandatory for all institutional and
public buildings, in order to augment subsurface storage. More and
more private building owners in deficit pockets are also adopting this
technology which is simple, affordable, and can be adopted at the
neighbourhood or even the building level. The rooftop rainwater can
be channelled into abandoned wells or abandoned or working hand
pumps. Alternatively, a recharge pit, shaft, or trench with appropriate
specifications can be dug at a corner of the house or a group of houses.
It has been found that groundwater recharge from houses of 100m2 of
rooftop in average monsoon condition will be 55,000 litres per year,
which is sufficient for a period of four months for a five-person family.
This is a simple and innovative technology, and appropriate to the
context of cities in developing countries which lack the adequate
resources for mega-schemes or an assured water supply. This
technology has yet to be adopted on a large scale in Indian cities,
however, and there is to date no central scheme or incentive to
propagate it.

Summary and conclusion

This paper has attempted to describe the rapidly deepening and urgent
nature of the urban crisis in India. The failure to provide adequate
livelihoods in rural areas is pushing larger numbers of people into the
cities than ever before. Informal work and desperately unhealthy living
situations in slums await most of the new entrants into the city.

Urban crisis in India 173

Perhaps as much as a third of Indias urban population of 300 million
share this fate.
Urban infrastructure and services are abysmally bad and getting
worse. Their long neglect and mismanagement by state-level institutions,
development authorities, and parastatal bodies was supposed to
have come to an end from the early 1990s with the implementation of
the 74th Constitutional Amendment. This Amendment created the
legal basis for expanding the authority of urban local bodies (city
governments) in planning, managing, and funding the development
and maintenance of their cities. The Amendment was also intended to
encourage and empower civil society organisations to participate more
fully in the governance of the city.
In the eight years since the Amendment came into force, the urban
local bodies remain constrained in their ability to improve conditions
through investments to upgrade infrastructure and services. Even very
low-cost, highly efficient technologies for handling human waste,
producing building components for housing from recycled materials,
and replenishing groundwater supplies are not being widely taken up
by the urban communities which so desperately need them.
This situation is a result of the continuing inability and incapacity
of urban local bodies effectively to promote investments on the use of
these and other appropriate technologies for improving living
conditions in the cities. However, a deeper look into the matter shows
that state-level institutions, development authorities, and parastatals
are still too deeply involved in governance at the local level, and have
little incentive and capacity to promote the kinds of initiatives that are
needed. Hence, any fundamental change for the urban poor awaits a
reform of the reform process begun with the 74th Amendment: that is,
to implement more speedily and thoroughly the transfer of authority,
initiative, and resources to urban local bodies and local civil society.

1 Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) conditions can be aggregated into a
are a composite measure of the single measure of the impacts of all
burden of each major health problem. conditions detracting from full health.
The DALYs for a given condition are They therefore provide a means for
the sum of years of life lost due to policy makers to prioritise health
premature mortality and the number threats and challenges, though the
of years of life lived with disability, concept has many critics (Anand and
adjusted for the severity of the Hanson 1995).
disability. DALYs for different

174 Development and Cities

2 A city government can be dissolved presidential assent, but was not
by the state government for a number notified in the official gazette owing
of reasons: for example, when no to opposition from traders who
party or group of parties command successfully stalled the Act and forced
majority support in the municipal the GOI to introduce legislation which
council, or when the council itself significantly compromised the
has passed a resolution recommending original idea of reforming urban rent
dissolution and early election. laws by encouraging private
3 The term civic bodies has been used investment.
as a synonym for city governments. 6 This phrase has been coined to
It includes various forms of city describe the post-1992 urban reform
governments such as notified area in the country. Those who are
committees in small towns, municipal responsible for pushing urban
councils in medium towns, and reforms are themselves extremely
municipal corporations in metropolitan cautious about such reforms. The
towns. fear of antagonising the urban middle
4 Most of the parastatal bodies have class and the poor who may be
been constituted by the laws enacted affected in the short run by such
by the state legislatures, giving them measures have stood in the way of
an autonomous character. These are introducing these reforms.
accountable to the state governments, 7 Many such citizen initiatives are
and not to the city governments. reported from various parts of the
5 The state of urban governance in the country. One such citizens group has
post-1992 reform phase has yet to be recently approached the Supreme
studied in depth, but is reflected in the Court of India for directions on
reports of the many SFCs. Mis- improving the management of solid
management of many of the waste in the cities. This important
parastatal bodies is reflected in the Public Interest Litigation is expected
huge subsidies they receive from the to open a new chapter on solid waste
state governments and the poor level management in the large cities of
of satisfaction of the citizens. Very India.
few state governments have the
courage to withdraw the subsidy from References
the supply of water and power from
urban consumers or to privatise the Anand, S. and K. Hanson (1995)
distribution systems. The political Disability-Adjusted Life Years: A
considerations of potential voter Critical Review, Working Paper
dissatisfaction that could follow such 95.06, Cambridge, MA: Harvard Center
measures in the short term have for Population and Development
prevailed over considerations of Studies
sound financial management. Similar Asian Development Bank (ADB) (1997)
considerations have prevented any Urban Infrastructure in Asian
significant reforms of the property Countries, Manila: ADB
tax systems in the urban areas. The Building Materials and Technology
classic example is the Delhi Rent Promotion Council (1996) Low Cost
Control Act which was passed in Building Materials and Technology,
parliament and had received New Delhi: Government of India

Urban crisis in India 175

Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) Ministry of Urban Development (MUD)
(1988) Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting (2000a) Policy Paper on Urban
for Augmenting Ground Water Storage, Infrastructure, New Delhi: Government
New Delhi: CGWB of India
Central Public Health Environmental Ministry of Urban Development (MUD)
Engineering Organisation (CPHEEO) (2000b) Annual Report: 19992000,
(1996) Meeting the Needs of Drinking New Delhi: Government of India
Water in Urban India, New Delhi: National Commission of Urbanisation
CPHEEO (NCU) (1988) Report of National
Centre for Science and Environment Commission of Urbanisation, New
(CSE) (2000) State of Indias Delhi: NCU
Environment, Citizens Fifth Report, National Institute of Urban Affairs
Chapter 5, New Delhi: CSE (NIUA) (1988) State of Indias
Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) Urbanisation, New Delhi: NIUA
(1997) Compendium of Environment National Institute of Urban Affairs
Statistics, New Delhi: CSO (NIUA) (2000) Urban Statistics
Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) Handbook, New Delhi: NIUA
(1986) India Infrastructure Report, Planning Commission (1998) Report of
report of the Committee constituted the Working Group of the Ninth Plan
under the Chairmanship of Rakesh on Urban Development, New Delhi:
Mohan, Ministry of Finance, New Government of India
Delhi: Government of India Rail India Technical and Economic
Housing and Urban Development Services (1997) Financing Indias
Corporation (1988) Guidelines for Urban Transport, New Delhi: RITES
Sanitation Schemes, Technical Circular Registrar General of India (1991) Census
No. 177, New Delhi: HUDC of India, New Delhi: Government of
Ministry of Urban Development (MUD) India
(1992) Report of the Expert Group to Singh, Kulwant and Florian Steinberg
Undertake a Study of the Working of (eds) (1996) Urban India in Crisis,
the Building Centres, New Delhi: New Delhi
Government of India UNCHS (1998) Sustainable Cities
Ministry of Urban Development (MUD) Programme, Nairobi: UNCHS
(1999) Solid Waste Management in UNDP (1992) Technical Guidance on Twin
Class I Cities in India, report of the Pit Pour-Flush Latrines, New Delhi:
Committee constituted by the UNDP
Supreme Court of India, New Delhi:
Government of India

176 Development and Cities

International co-operation in
pursuit of sustainable cities
Adrian Atkinson

Sustainability in the context of development is now generally understood

to mean primarily environmental sustainability. This is rightly so,
because environmental and, above all, resource problems of the future
are issues that must be faced today. This paper, however, focuses
attention more on the sustainability of the approaches adopted by
external support agencies (ESAs) in their efforts to support projects
and programmes in urban areas.1 Of course, this does not exclude
environmental sustainability which shares with the narrower concept
a concern that successful urban programmes and projects should
continue to yield results well into the future. But the intention here is
to stimulate debate around the role of ESAs in their urban engagements,
with the concept of environmental sustainability as a backdrop to the
The paper starts with a critical review of past attempts of international
and bilateral agency to intervene in urban development. The recent
refocusing of attention on urban development within the framework
of sustainable development has led to new kinds of initiative that are
reviewed in the second part of the paper. As yet, however, these do not
add up to anything like a coherent approach to support for urban
sustainable development, and the third part of the paper attempts to
identify new approaches and initiatives which relevant agencies might
adopt to improve their performance. It will also be necessary for
agencies to look seriously at bad practices from the past that persist to
a significant, if not overwhelming, degree among their activities in
support of urban development. This is done with a view to undertaking
thoroughgoing reform, not simply implementing a few best practice
projects that mask the realities of support for urban development.
This issue is discussed in the final section.

Past problems in development agency support for
urban projects
Northern development urbanists and others involved in addressing
problems in the cities of the South are generally aware that they are
operating at the margins of the broad field of development. This seems
increasingly perverse given that rapid urbanisation everywhere will
lead to a situation within the foreseeable future where the majority of
the worlds population lives in urban areas and where urban problems
become increasingly serious.
In the early years of what is now referred to as development work, in
the context of the UN Charter and Bretton Woods agreement, it seemed
clear that most attention should be focused on rural development. The
majority of the population of the underdeveloped countries lived in
rural areas and the opportunities for improving their living conditions
appeared to be great. Private international investment, as well as both
public and private local investment, seemed to be concentrated in the cities
(referred to at the time as urban bias) whereas the presumption not
without its detractors was that improvements in rural productivity would
be the foundation for a progressive development process.
Clearly, in this context little attention was paid to problems in urban
areas. Many ESAs maintained a complete ban on urban projects and
those that did fund them did so initially on an ad hoc basis in response
to political exigencies. The first move towards recognising that urban
problems also needed to be addressed by the ESAs was the 1976
Habitat conference, which led to the establishment of UNCHS
(United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, or Habitat), a very
small addition to the UN family. There was little impact, however, on
the policies and priorities of existing agencies. Arguably the most
significant bilateral agency initiative was that of USAID in establishing
Regional Housing and Urban Development Offices (RHUDOs).
UNDP also became a presence in the field of urban planning and
management, and World Bank projects were started up in the larger
cities of some countries.
However, in spite of the world having changed radically in terms of
the geographic location of populations and the economic development
process as a whole, urban interventions have remained stubbornly on
the margins of development assistance. According to Chapter 8 of
Agenda 21, as recently as 1988 only 1 per cent of UN funding was
assigned to projects relating to human settlements. Of course, a greater

178 Development and Cities

amount was being spent in urban areas, but such funding (e.g. in
health, education, roads, and energy supply) was not disbursed with
any awareness of the particularities of planning and managing projects
relating to urbanisation or in the urban context.2
Given this lack of interest in what might be the special characteristics
of programmes and projects associated with urban areas, it is little
wonder that the few activities that were supported encountered many
problems. The tendency was for agencies encountering such problems
then to retreat from involvement in the urban sector rather than
increase resources to find out why projects werent working and what
might be done to improve matters. Essentially, funding decisions were
based on internal agency prejudices about what was needed and who
should be involved in determining how things should be done.
The first source of problems stemmed from the legal framework of
the UN Charter, which required programmes and projects to be agreed,
and generally controlled thereafter, by central government agencies.
The centralised nature of most Southern governments, which
inevitably meant that local authorities had little say in what was done
and other local actors even less was a rather obvious reason for poor
project performance: not only did corruption siphon off resources and
distort priorities, but there was also a fatal lack of local knowledge on
the part of responsible officers and, symmetrically, a lack of local
understanding of why decisions were taken in the way they were.
There was an assumption among responsible staff and consultants
that a significant reason for poor project performance was a lack of
training of local authority staff, and some effort thus went into what
were considered to be relevant training programmes. But in practice
many of the staff knew well enough what to do in theory, but lacked
motivation in situations in which they had little if any power to
determine their own way of solving local problems.
In fact, until recently, ESA staff involved in urban programmes
overwhelmingly assumed that what was needed was the consistent
application of technocratic approaches to urban planning and
management like those that had been successful in transforming
European cities at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the
twentieth century. These included the development of mechanisms to
plan cities, the design and management of integrated urban traffic and
transport systems, the installation of piped water supply and sewerage
systems, the introduction of technically sophisticated solid waste
removal and disposal systems, and so on.

International co-operation in pursuit of sustainable cities 179

Upon introducing these techniques to cities in the South,
compromises were made to accommodate obvious differences, mainly
stemming from what was perceived as lack of financial resources to
implement the expensive approaches taken in Europe to solving urban
problems. Ineffective management structures and processes, usually
treated peripherally and often completely disregarded as a component
of urban projects, were an ongoing weakness of these projects. Little
or no thought was ever given to the possibility that cities might be
fundamentally different organisms in different geographic and
cultural contexts, and that they would therefore require, in large
measure, locally developed approaches to solving urban problems.
Indeed, ESA urban development professionals appear to have been
universally ignorant (or they decided to disregard the significance) of
the way in which effective urban planning and management in
European cities emerged from hard-fought political battles. In Europe,
improved techniques developed progressively on the back of social
movements from the public health movement in the 1850s in the UK,
through the turn-of-century progressive movement in the USA, to the
current environmental movements and their insistence on raising
standards to eliminate urban pollution. In this light, it makes little
sense to import techniques unless there is genuine local demand and
a deep political commitment to them.
The second major source of problems underlying such interventions
was the assumption that governments were in control of the urban
development process but that the laws and regulatory mechanisms
were not yet working very well (i.e. in time, the development process
would yield more effective controls). However, although the modern
world insists that all countries be overseen by governments with a
certain appearance of legal structures and administrative organs, in
practice governments in different cultural contexts are different kinds
of organism.
In practical terms, what this means in relation to urban development
in many countries of the South (and we can draw a distinction between
more coherent approaches to urban planning and development in
cultures that have a longer history of urbanisation than in those with
little such experience) is that governments have had relatively little
control over the urban development process.
In few countries of the South has urban planning had much
more than a marginal effect in guiding the development of cities. The
placement of infrastructure has had a more significant impact in that

180 Development and Cities

development is easier where there are, for instance, paved roads. But
even the formal development sector has been able to disregard rules
and follow its own path to profits, regardless of what might make a
more pleasant and workable city for citizens as a whole. Meanwhile, a
large proportion of urban development has been informal, following
its own rationale sometimes with harassment of governments and
private landowners, but increasingly in a context of benign neglect or
even with some post hoc government and ESA assistance. Informal
settlement upgrading has by now joined the portfolio of a number of
ESAs although we should not exaggerate the extent of resources going
into such projects, which nowhere reach even 5 per cent of official
development assistance (ODA).
At the conceptual level, virtually no effort went into trying to
understand the underlying processes and forces which created such
cities and hence to discover what might be truly effective approaches to
guide their development for the benefit of all. The overall concept
seems to have been one day they will be like us, with a series of
fragmented and contingent ways of dealing with the fact that these
Southern cities and the processes of urbanisation were, rather
obviously, not like those of the North.

New approaches in ESA support for urban

Since the early 1990s, however, there seems to have been a gradual
change of heart and understanding of what ESAs need to do to help
improve conditions in cities of the South, and a growing commitment
to becoming involved in supporting urban programmes and projects.
Some agencies have produced policy documents that recognise the
reality of rapid urbanisation in the South and the consequences of this
in a situation of inadequate resources, powers, and capacities to guide
the process. The best known of these are those produced by the World
Bank (1991) and UNDP (1991). These were followed by many more
policy and research publications by these agencies, including the World
Bank Urban Management Programme (UMP) series, which was
concerned with urban finance, land management, infrastructure, and
the urban environment.
A number of bilateral ESAs, including those of Germany (BMZ
1995), Switzerland (SDC 1995), and Sweden (SIDA 1996) produced
urban policy documents indicating a new interest in providing more

International co-operation in pursuit of sustainable cities 181

coherent assistance in urban development in the South. Habitat II in
1996 prompted many ESAs to focus attention on urban issues and to
put out policy positions, led by the substantial Global Report on Human
Settlements (UNCHS 1996).3 The World Bank, which picks up different
themes in each report, focused major attention on urban development
issues in 19992000 (World Bank 1999).
Urban research
There is evidence that ESAs are now looking for more detailed
information that will help them to become more effective in supporting
urban projects.4 Over a longer period, a number of Northern institutions
have carried out research and published on issues relating to urbanisation
and cities in the South. The International Institute for Environment
and Development (IIED) and the Stockholm Environment Institute
(SEI) are well-known examples even if their work on urban issues is
but a small part of their overall research activity. There are also
academic institutions in the North that have long focused attention on
urban problems in the South although, responding somewhat to the
market, the focus has been mainly on training and practice, with
little attention to research needs. In the South itself, there are many
academic and research institutions that have been undertaking urban
research, sometimes in collaboration with, or financially supported by,
Northern institutions.
In the late 1990s, this area of activity has been opening up. A major
review of urban research in the developing world under the title of
Global Urban Research Initiative (GURI), funded by the Ford Foundation
and co-ordinated by the University of Toronto, produced a string of
papers and substantial books on Asia, on Africa, and on Latin America,
plus a thematic volume (Stren 1995).5 Some of the bilateral ESAs have
also expanded their research around urban themes. The focus of this
research has varied greatly: from attempts to gain more coherent
regional perspectives (e.g. the German Development Ministrys effort
to analyse the state of play in participatory initiatives in sustainable
urban development in Asia, see Samol 1999), to research programmes
on approaches to understanding the processes of urbanrural
interactions in the South (e.g. the Club de Sahel research into
urbanrural interactions in West Africa, see Court 1998), to the DFID-
funded peri-urban interface research programme, see DPU 1999).
The GURI programme focused attention on urban research being
undertaken in the South, and aimed to strengthen networks among

182 Development and Cities

such research groups. This, and the work of the UMP, while more
oriented towards the immediate needs of practitioners, remained
exceptional in their attempt to be coherent across a range of research
areas. Most of the research carried out by Northern institutions and
consultancies on urbanisation and urban issues in the South has been
fragmented with inadequate dissemination (some of it for lack of
translation) and poor networking among researchers.6 The Network
Association of European Researchers on Urbanisation in the South
(N-AERUS) was established to improve communication precisely in
this area.
There has been an increase not only in general policy development
and research, but also in assistance to relevant national agencies in
certain countries, with a view to developing national urban policies and
research capacity. UNDP and UNCHS have been the most active in this
regard but there has also been some bilateral agency assistance. Clearly,
such policy frameworks are important in order to facilitate a more
coherent approach to ESA support for urban work, both to ensure
support from the national government and also as an informational
basis for providing perspective on the current situation and how
assistance might be most effective.
Good governance
Until quite recently, the term governance was rarely used and esoteric.
Some would say it is still esoteric. Indeed, although it has become very
widely used in development circles many ESAs have adopted the
achievement of good governance as a major policy goal in development
assistance there is still a considerable lack of clarity as to what should
be done under this heading. Perhaps this has to do with shyness about
approaching the issues implicit in the term in a more direct manner,
given that it points to direct interference in the politics of countries of
the South. However, it ends up with agencies carrying out very different
activities under the same rubric, and perhaps avoiding the ostensible
aims of such support.
At one end, it has been assumed that the privatisation of public
services and enterprises, which has also been an important policy goal
of some agencies especially USAID is part of the more general
promotion of good governance. This stems from the apparent
inefficiencies of government monopolies, which privatisation
programmes are supposed to replace with more efficient services
provided by private businesses. While there are certainly success

International co-operation in pursuit of sustainable cities 183

stories in, for instance, water supply and solid waste disposal in
Southern cities, there are also limits to the possibilities.
On the one hand, ineffective regulation and corruption (see below)
easily vitiate the whole purpose of privatisation, simply making profits
for those companies that manage to obtain contracts to supply goods
or carry out services, without necessarily improving matters. On the
other hand, the supply of services to poor urban neighbourhoods (in
many cities of the South, these constitute the majority of households)
does not lend itself to privatisation in the usually accepted sense.
Community self-help is proving to be a more effective approach here.
Finally, although productive enterprises are the main focus of
privatisation programmes, a simplistic division of public and private
obviously cannot be equated with a distinction between efficient and
inefficient. It is well known that in some Asian countries it is precisely
the close connections between government (and not uncorrupt
governments at that) and private enterprise that have proved the key to
economic success notably in Japan and South Korea and more
recently China and Vietnam. In the end, the drive to privatise has more
to do with ideology than an improvement in governance or real proven
benefit to urban citizens.
In some cases, equity and particularly gender programmes fall
under, or are seen as closely related to, ESAs governance programmes.
Certainly, it is difficult to talk of good governance in a situation where
large sections of the population are de facto excluded from the benefits
of development: where self-help is the predominant mode of provision
of goods and (urban) services, governance is evidently not fair in the
way that it looks after the needs of all citizens. Perhaps poverty
alleviation (or, nowadays, poverty elimination) should be seen as
essentially a governance issue.
In reality, it would seem that the central concern of good governance
programmes is the issue of corruption. Some ESAs have programmes
specifically to address this question, but it is the political sensitivity of
the issue that leads to the tendency to avoid addressing the matter
directly. One problem is that ESAs have, in fact, colluded in corruption,
albeit usually indirectly (e.g. their contractors have to pay officials to
facilitate their development activities). For instance, in Indonesia, after
the fall of the Suharto rgime, the agenda was for reform and against
corruption, collusion, and nepotism (locally KKN). The fact that the
World Bank had colluded in corruption became open knowledge and
the Bank had to respond which it did by estimating that perhaps 30

184 Development and Cities

per cent of its loans had been siphoned off into accounts other than
those that produced the intended goods and services (Manning 1999).
In fact, corruption is rarely the result of individual acts of graft and
extortion. Most of it is systematic and a real part of the way that not only
governments but also societies work. The relative good governance to
be found in Europe today resulted from social movements of a century
and more ago which separated public service from personal or
extended family interests. In many, if not most, countries of the
South, extended family or other patronage or clientelist networks are
still the real way that politics and social relations work. Unless these
are uncovered and unless social movements arise to push for transparency,
things will remain as they are. Social and political changes are in
motion and it is clear how changes in the government, for instance
in South-East Asia, have been a function of the changing nature of the
societies (Atkinson 2000). In this perspective, it is difficult for ESAs to
mount good governance programmes that go to the heart of the matter
and expect to have the governments acquiesce where this potentially
means their own demise, given that these are precisely the people who
benefit from the continuance of corrupt practices!
Participatory approaches
One of the problems which led in the past to the under-performance of
ESA-supported urban projects was that they were run through central
government agencies rather than local government. Part of the new
approach to supporting urban projects and programmes involves ESAs
funding projects in which local actors are more directly involved in
project development and implementation. Various mechanisms are
being employed to do this, some of which are described below.
First, some funding is being channelled more or less directly
to NGOs working in urban areas. This includes the funding of
Northern NGOs to collaborate with local NGOs and community-based
organisations working at the local level. Some resources the UNDP
LIFE programme being a good example are going directly to Southern
NGOs working at the urban level. Such projects are always small in
terms of resources, in most cases addressing specific local problems
predominantly in poor areas, but in some cases adopting a broader
community development approach.
A second approach, sometimes referred to as decentralised co-
operation, is a mechanism through which Northern municipalities
co-operate with their Southern counterparts (Douxchamps 1997;

International co-operation in pursuit of sustainable cities 185

Ringrose 1999).7 This has grown out of the twinning (or jumelage)
movement by which many Northern towns and cities became linked
with one another in the decades following the Second World War.
Increasingly, Northern towns and cities are twinning with Southern
towns and cities (and sometimes institutions within these are forging
links) with the intention of exchanging experiences and, in the process,
attempting to improve the development processes of rapidly growing
Southern cities. Some national municipal associations notably in
Canada, France, The Netherlands, the UK, and the USA are providing
advice and assistance to develop such links, and some ESAs are also
funding such initiatives. The European Commission-financed URBS
programmes (which promote co-operation between European and
Southern local authorities) are a notable example of the latter.
Third, ESAs are finding ways of organising programmes and projects
more directly with local authorities and communities without going
through central government agencies. There are various formulas for
this which include relatively traditional urban planning and manage-
ment assistance projects, often focusing on particular sectors, lasting
one or two years and operated by foreign consultants, but now working
directly with local agencies. There has also been an increase in the
number of longer-term urban projects that are developing in a more
flexible way through local organisations and institutions. This new
approach is not only being pursued by certain bilateral ESAs and UN
agency programmes (such as the WHO Healthy Cities programme and
the URBS programme), but most recently also by the regional
development banks, including the World Bank. In all these cases, the
watchword is participation. There has been a broad realisation of the
need to involve stakeholders more directly in projects in order to elicit
a greater sense of commitment and ownership of project outputs.
A final point about participation concerns the way in which initial
decisions are taken about programmes and projects. Traditionally,
development co-operation starts through bilateral negotiations, whereby
delegations from donor agencies discuss what activities should be
financed with relevant government officials in recipient countries. In
practice, the tendency is that he who pays the piper calls the tune:
donor agencies are able to influence matters in favour of their own
priorities, rather than those of the receiving countries. Furthermore,
government officials who happen to be part of the negotiating process
are likely also to favour projects that suit them, rather than representing
broader constituencies.

186 Development and Cities

Back in 1970, when the Canadian government created the International
Development Research Council (IDRC), it experimented with providing
a budget directly to a board, half of which was made up of represent-
atives of Southern countries, which would determine the content of the
programme. Later, similar arrangements have been attempted by other
agencies including the Swedish Agency for Research Co-operation with
Developing Countries (SAREC) (since absorbed into SIDA), the Dutch
(for example, the Urban Waste Expertise Programme), and recently the
French programme Gestion Durable de Dchets et lAssainissement
Urbain. The above-mentioned European-funded URBS programmes
similarly are overseen by boards made up of experts from relevant
participating regions. It cannot be said,
however, that there is any rapid move to adopt such decision-making
Sustainable urban development
A further high-profile shift in priorities of ESAs has been to focus
attention upon problems associated with the urban environment. This
is often linked to a concern that, in future, projects must conform to the
requirements of sustainable development. This has had various, not
necessarily linked, consequences. First, it should be noted that in many
cases environment is little more than a new term for certain kinds of
traditional urban projects. When the environment came to the fore of
public concerns in the late 1980s, it came associated particularly with
fears about global pollution and the loss of resources such as tropical
rainforests and fisheries. Those who had been working with urban
infrastructure projects in the past feared that, yet again, budgets that
should be spent in urban areas would be hijacked for non-urban
projects aimed at addressing the newly urgent global environmental
problems. Efforts were made, therefore, to ensure that the urban
environment would also be seen as an important issue. The World
Bank Urban Division coined the term brown agenda, asserting the
importance of financing urban infrastructure projects, including
(clean) water supply, sanitation and solid waste management, and air
pollution controls, over the demands of the global environmental lobby.
On the other hand, growing out of the deeper concerns of the
environmental movement and in particular the process emerging from
the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development
specifically Agenda 21 some ESA funding has gone into Local

International co-operation in pursuit of sustainable cities 187

Agenda 21 programmes and projects. In practice, these exercises look
much like any other participatory urban development project concerned
with improving living conditions and empowering local communities.
They do, however, effect a certain shift in focus towards environmental
matters and attempt to link into Agenda 21 and its concern for
environmentally sustainable development.
Despite the new rhetoric of environment and sustainable
development, there is no clear indication that more funding is going
even into traditional urban (environmental) infrastructure projects
(Atkinson and Allen 1998). Further, projects explicitly concerned with
sustainable cities (including Local Agenda 21 projects) have remained
few and small (see articles by Kombe and Burian in this volume).
Contextual issues
In the light of these observations about the reorientation of ESA
attention towards the field of urban development, it is useful to stand
back and see how this relates to broader trends. The first thing is that,
in spite of the apparently greater interest in urban problems and
awareness of the need for more attention to be focused on addressing
these, there is as yet no statistically significant shift in funding priorities
of ESAs towards urban activities. Given that it is almost ten years since
the World Bank and UNDP policy papers were circulated, and almost
five years since Habitat II, we might have expected to see some change.
The second point concerns the rhetoric regarding ESA support for
urban projects. Most agencies state as their first priority (or one of the
first priorities) that they wish to contribute to the alleviation or, more
recently, the elimination of poverty, which is in fact in many countries
growing considerably faster in urban than in rural areas (UNCHS
1996). The channelling of resources to NGOs working at community
level and the significant attention paid by some agencies to projects
concerned with upgrading informal housing areas would seem to stem
from this. However, little or no attention is paid to the way in which the
wider conditions are undermining local efforts to alleviate poverty. In
particular, the promotion of neo-liberal macro-economic policies and
structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) have had the effect of
increasing poverty in a way that cannot be meaningfully addressed by
urban community programmes (UNRISD 1995).
Given the varied impacts of neo-liberalism and the diversity of urban
projects in different countries it is perhaps somewhat specious to take

188 Development and Cities

just one example to illustrate the above point. Nevertheless, it is useful
to provide some illustration and for this we shall draw on the authors
own experience in Indonesia, which for many years has been the
subject of a significant amount of attention paid to urban development
by ESAs.8 This is reasonable given the rapidity of urbanisation in
Indonesia, indicated the fact that by 1990 as many as ten metropolitan
areas had populations of over one million.
Official figures show a steady reduction of poverty to a level of
around 11 per cent in early 1997. However, with the collapse of the
economy in July that year, poverty levels rose steadily over the following
18 months to over 50 per cent of the population. The immediate cause
was massive speculation against the currency following deregulation
of the exchange rate. There is certainly no proof that in the long run
the exchange rate deregulation will lead to the enrichment of the
Indonesian people: this action was carried out according to the ideology
of global liberalisation.
Interestingly, it was realised immediately by the development
agencies that the impacts of the sudden rise in poverty would be
particularly evident in urban areas and, indeed, many industries
immediately came to a halt. Tens of thousands of urban workers were
laid off, which affected them, their families, and all those supplying
them with goods and services (Lee 1999). The ESA community reacted
quickly, with most agencies present in Indonesia mounting emergency
programmes (BAPPENAS/UNDP 1998), a significant number of these
explicitly directed at alleviating urban poverty.
Most significant among these was a series of World Bank initiatives
involving a programme of supporting community organisations to
disburse funds to support local activities including infrastructure,
health, and environmental improvement initiatives. There was much
pragmatic logic to these programmes: to inflate the currency by
inserting large amounts of dollars; to go directly to poor communities
in order to by-pass that layer of corruption that could export illegal
takings; and to go into urban areas because more money could be spent
there more quickly than in rural areas.
In other words, an apparent conversion to decentralised urban
community initiatives was actually mainly about macro-economic
manipulation in an attempt to compensate for the dire effects of
liberalisation. Implementation of these programmes ran far more
slowly than envisaged (thereby presumably losing much of the
intended macro-economic impact). However, implementation was

International co-operation in pursuit of sustainable cities 189

rapid enough to necessitate a very loose attitude towards the
creation of local structures of accountability, and ran the risk of simply
decentralising corruption rather than creating any genuine community
development or empowerment.
This attention to the context within which urban projects and
programmes are implemented is, however, new and exceptional.
Hitherto, these have been organised, as noted earlier, in a manner that
was blind to the differences in the social, cultural, and political contexts
into which they were being inserted. They were also insensitive to the
way in which the wider political and indeed ideological context
determined priorities both within and beyond the project in ways that
might not, in the end, be in the interest of putative project beneficiaries.
Essentially, although a new orientation appears to have been entering
into the definition of urban projects supported by ESAs, there has been
relatively little reflection on the ideological context within which the
new approaches are unfolding and the contradictions inherent in
these. Nor has there been much reflection on the need to develop a
more consistent paradigm that will make sense of the new initiatives
and provide a robust framework for evaluating the likelihood of success.9
It is no good supporting urban sectoral projects or even community
development (or empowerment) projects unless steps are taken to
combat a macro context that consistently leads to further impoverish-
ment of local communities. At the same time, it seems that far more
serious thought needs to go into the meaning of sustainable
development and how to achieve it in relation to the ongoing process
of urbanisation in the countries of the South.

Consistency in ESA support for urban programmes

and projects
Below, we offer some thoughts in the direction of a new paradigm for
ESA support for urban development programmes and projects. These
grow out of our earlier critique, although we recognise that elements
of a new paradigm are already evolving. Of course, we have selected
particular themes and avoided or rejected others, with the aim of
stimulating discussion.
Increasing ESA support for urban programmes and projects
This paper is premised on the view that a greater proportion of ESA
resources should go into addressing urban problems, so no attempt is
made here to argue the point in any detail (Atkinson and Allen 1998).

190 Development and Cities

It is worth noting, however, a couple of points concerning the
resistance of ESAs to making the necessary shift in resources.
The first reason seems to have to do with inertia within the agencies.
Having been born in a world that demanded rural development, they
find it difficult to adjust to the new realities. The experience and
knowledge of the corps of senior professionals relates overwhelmingly
to rural development or to sectors which do not relate directly to urban
development as such, and they are not prepared to move into the
unknown.10 The argument is reiterated that urbanisation is nothing
but a bundle of problems and that rural development should be
supported in order to keep people on the land.11
A further reason is illustrated by cases where urban projects have
been attempted by ESAs, but the complexity of working in this context,
with the greater number of affected and involved actors and increased
sensitivity to social and environmental impacts of even small
interventions, has resulted in a decision to avoid developing projects in
What general approach should be taken to developing urban
programmes and projects?
Urban programmes and projects require a different orientation from
the traditional short project with definite physical outputs. Here is a
sketch of how an ideal type of urban programme developed by an ESA
might look:
It is extremely difficult to insert a narrowly defined sectoral project
into an urban area without being involved in wider aspects of
the way in which the city works. Urban projects need to be multi-
dimensional. If they try to avoid being so, they are almost
guaranteed to yield sub-optimal outputs with respect to their main
It is also difficult to make a positive sustainable impact in a short
period (short-term insertion of technical infrastructure, for instance,
almost always ends in sub-optimal usage and management or even
in outright failure). Urban projects need to be flexible and open-
ended in terms of duration and scope, developing confidence and
complex working relationships, and deciding what needs to be done.
The project can then evolve and grow according to needs identified
as it develops; alternatively, if insuperable difficulties arise, then the
project can be taken in different directions or wound down.

International co-operation in pursuit of sustainable cities 191

Working with local (poor) communities in this way can be effective
in producing local improvements, but it also requires engagement
with, and commitment from, the municipality and possibly also
relevant national agencies.
One programme that has attempted to create a model for urban
intervention is the World Bank Metropolitan Environmental
Improvement Programme (MEIP). This suggested a three-stage
process: (i) starting simultaneously with local community projects,
building confidence and working relationships, and at the same
time undertaking strategic studies at the level of the city as a whole;
(ii) followed by pilot projects on various issues, as determined by
selected local communities and municipal decision-making
processes developed in the first stage; and (iii) the development of
larger-scale projects, possibly scaling up successful pilot projects or
providing the larger-scale infrastructure necessary for local
infrastructure to operate effectively.
So, urban projects should ideally be projects for whole towns or
cities. But what should be taken as the extent of the city? Given the
tendency today for towns and cities to extend their influence
(particularly economic and environmental) well into the surrounding
countryside, and given the insuperable difficulty of organising
suburban (peri-urban) projects without engaging the core urban
areas, urban projects should ideally include a significant subregion
beyond the immediate city boundaries.
How should the cities be chosen? All too easily, urban projects are
established through political exigencies so that it only later emerges
that these did not correspond to the optimal choice. A set of criteria
needs to be established and a longer process engaged in with
national and local actors before decisions are taken on where to
initiate urban projects. This suggests the need for a national urban
programme with one or more city projects.
Within a national programme, other activities that need to be
undertaken include providing support for the development of
national urbanisation policy and information systems, support for
urban training programmes, support for research programmes, and
so on.
Of course, only the largest ESAs will become involved in all aspects
of urban programmes in all countries. Just as many agencies choose
a limited number of countries in which to work, so also with urban

192 Development and Cities

projects. In fact it is imperative that agencies develop mechanisms
to exchange experiences with one another regularly, and also decide
upon a division of labour and possibly also of territory. For instance,
several agencies might co-operate at the level of global regions, each
specialising in what they do best and co-operating as necessary in
national programmes and even in urban projects (e.g. through
decentralised co-operation). Obviously, such collaboration needs to
include relevant actors and stakeholders from the countries and
cities in question, including in strategic planning decisions.

Some detailed considerations

There is a learning curve to all new kinds of initiative and many
mistakes are made in the process of starting up what would appear to
be excellent new approaches. It is to be hoped that lessons will be
learned regarding how to go about these new approaches, and that they
do not end in a retreat just because it seems too difficult to get it right.
Here are a few thoughts regarding the new approaches discussed in the
second part of this paper:
It might be expected from the quantity of resources going into
research on urbanisation and urban issues in the South, that useful
information will become more available. This will not happen,
however, unless there is a marked improvement in disseminating
research findings among all involved actors, North and South, be
they individuals, institutions, or agencies. There is an increasingly
urgent need for networking between research institutions. But,
above all, there is a need for the research to be oriented towards the
needs of practitioners. This might mean more action-research in
particular locations involving local stakeholders, and with
researchers engaging more directly with agency staff responsible for
developing and managing projects. Unfortunately, on the whole,
agency staff have too little time to indulge in reading either theory
that might help them better organise their thought processes
regarding what makes an effective project, or the outputs of practical
research that provide information on the details necessary to
understand what projects should be trying to achieve and how to go
about reaching those ends effectively.
Because agency staff are assumed to have little time to read, it is
assumed that they need to be spoon-fed with show-and-tell
guidelines on how to put together programmes and projects. In fact,

International co-operation in pursuit of sustainable cities 193

it is questionable whether such guidelines are any more useful to
agency staff than more sophisticated research outputs. The real
issue is that agencies need to be convinced of the importance of
good research to good programme and project formulation and
administration, and that agency staff are allowed the necessary time
to absorb the findings from such research before coming to
conclusions on programme and project design. Researchers need to
convince agency staff of the usefulness of research outputs to the
efficiency and effectiveness of their work.
It has been argued above that good governance is a cover for a
multiplicity of development objectives. On the one hand, a grand
word to elevate otherwise low-profile activities that were underway
even before the term governance came into currency in develop-
ment circles. On the other hand, a code for efforts to combat
corruption. In the case of privatisation as a means to improve
governance, it is now clear that promoting the interests of the private
sector has to be rethought in terms of the difficulties of obtaining
the resources necessary to improve the level of services among the
poor. Indeed, efforts to work laterally to develop the capacities of the
informal economy and to include in this methods, for instance,
of promoting community-based infrastructure construction and
maintenance programmes, seem more appropriate for much of the
urban South than any conventionally inspired privatisation
programme and this is increasingly recognised by ESAs working
on urban issues (Haan et al. 1998).
Regarding the combating of corruption more directly, it may help to
involve sociologists and anthropologists in generating a better
understanding of how the relevant societies and political systems
work in practice. Such research may be contentious, but it is necessary
to be more honest about the meaning of good governance in order
to address the problems more effectively. If the aim is to improve the
quality of life of the majority of urban citizens in the South
therefore including the poor and hence aiming directly at
alleviating or eliminating poverty then work will have to go into
bringing more accountable governments into being. This will mean
encouraging efforts to create transparency and to undermine
existing incentives that keep corrupt practices alive. But this will
take more imagination and commitment on the part of the ESAs
than they have shown to date.

194 Development and Cities

Decentralised co-operation holds much promise. A major problem
with conventional development co-operation is that it is carried out
by national governments on behalf of an electorate who as with so
much that governments do are therefore deprived of the direct
experience of what is done in their name. Further (and this is the
authors personal feeling from many years working in this field), it
often seems that there is a rather large accountability gap between
the ostensible political reasons for development co-operation and
the way it is actually put into practice. NorthSouth town twinning
provides opportunities for the electorate to participate directly in
development co-operation. There has, for sure, been much to
criticise about town twinning where councillors have used it to
enjoy themselves at the expense of local citizens. But there has also
been a mass of good experience where ordinary citizens have been
able to meet and collaborate with people in culturally diverse places,
to their mutual enrichment.
Until now, most twinning has been between Northern towns
and cities. Now that there is a significant growth of city-to-city
development co-operation between Northern and Southern cities
(and local institutions such as schools and hospitals), a new set of
problems arises. Here also the potential is great for personal cultural
exchange of citizen groups, of professionals from different sectors,
and so on. However, in the first instance, the cultural gap is great and
the assumptions about what people will find when they come into
contact are often quite problematic. In particular, local government
personnel from the North can easily come with ideas about the
superiority of what they have to offer (we are going to give them the
benefit of our superior knowledge and abilities). Or they are faced
with situations where their knowledge of how to deal with problems
is irrelevant in one or more ways too expensive, or assuming
different legal competences, or insensitive to cultural differences,
or simply a major language barrier.
What is required is that Northern municipalitiesand any other
institutions with a significant reason to engage in decentralised co-
operation develop relevant training programmes for individuals
or groups who are to participate in development co-operation. In
practice, the municipal associations of some European countries are
already providing a service to help municipalities wishing to engage
in decentralised co-operation. In this context, bilateral ESAs should

International co-operation in pursuit of sustainable cities 195

provide assistance not only to individual co-operation projects but
also to building up the necessary support infrastructure. In the
long run, one could envisage a significant decanting of national
development assistance out of the centralised agencies and into
decentralised channels.
There is also space for SouthSouth twinning or for consortia of
Southern municipalities to study problems and their solutions
among themselves and then to disseminate the results through
municipal networks and associations. Some ESA support has been
given to Southern associations (such as CityNet in Asia), and this
has yielded exchanges that have had positive results (CityNet 1994,
1996). The URBS programmes, already mentioned, are concerned
with establishing consortia of municipalities (Northern and
Southern together) in order to improve their performance around
particular themes and activities.
One more, perhaps tangential but nevertheless related, dimension
of decentralisation of the development co-operation process concerns
the decision-making processes of the ESAs. In recent years, some
Northern governments have made discretionary funds available to
their embassies, thereby shortening the bureaucratic chain that so
often stymies small projects that need financial assistance at relatively
short notice. ESAs are also tending to listen more carefully to local
voices in formulating programmes and projects by decentralising
more of the programme formulation to their own local offices.
The need to apply participatory approaches to urban projects is now
largely accepted, at least at the level of rhetoric. Getting it right,
however, is not so straightforward. The first problem is that popular
methods such as rapid appraisal can easily be used in a superficial
way to obtain rough (and possibly erroneous) information that is
then used in a very un-participatory way to determine what should
be done and how. Such perfunctory approaches should clearly be
avoided, but are, in practice, rather common.
A related problem concerns how representative these participatory
planning activities really are. This is actually a very difficult matter
to get right. Generally, there are political constraints on projects that
easily trap such exercises into creating participatory forums that
continue to exclude important groups because of schisms within the
community. These divisions may be religious, ethnic, along gender
or class or caste lines, or simply personal in nature.

196 Development and Cities

Genuinely participatory planning exercises almost inevitably challenge
existing social and political relations, and using the concept and
mechanisms in an honest fashion requires practitioners to face up
to this fact. They therefore need to be done over a longer period,
working with communities and using an increasing number of
tools available to the practitioner for accessing and incorporating
otherwise silent voices. This should help to ensure that the
processes are at least more representative than is the case where
participation is restricted only to official and other vocal groups and
A logical extension of the interest in promoting participation of
beneficiaries in Northern-funded development projects would be to
see more cases where boards including, or made up of, representatives
from Southern countries oversee the disbursement of funds or the
implementation of development assistance programmes. There is,
however, little sign of any significant growth in such an approach.
Certainly, a general move in this direction would be politically
unacceptable: in the end, much co-operation will remain a matter of
steering political relations at least as much as solving developmental
problems. It therefore needs to be argued how participation at the
basic decision-making level in terms of projects should be done in
a way that is relevant to particular programmes. No doubt there is
scope for considering how participation can be brought further up
the line, so that it does not merely remain a harmless sop to self-help
initiatives. Of course, there is a real problem at every level that
participation may be there solely for ideological convenience, and
that committees, councils, and boards are created that are denied
access to real decisions or control over finances in practice, while the
appearance of participation is maintained.
Sustainable urban development is another heading whose intellectual
content must be questioned. The sustainability of many initiatives
is highly questionable by any definition of the term. Sustainable for
whom? is a very good question. As in the case of participatory
planning exercises, the political context of many projects makes it
difficult to raise the issue of sustainability in any serious way:
immediate problems seem so urgent that it appears a luxury to
spend resources in thinking about the more distant future, and
about social and environmental problems beyond the immediate
context of local actions.

International co-operation in pursuit of sustainable cities 197

But ill-considered actions that seem to solve local problems are likely
to have longer-term consequences that make things a good deal
worse than they were originally. Examples of this run the full gamut
of self-help initiatives which serve to trap poor communities into
a permanent state of subservient economic and environmental
conditions, through to solid waste management systems that
improve on the disposal of waste but do nothing to conserve
resources, to solutions of transport problems that reduce air
pollution while increasing the need for non-renewable fossil-fuel
Sadly, while the literature on sustainable development, and
specifically sustainable cities, is burgeoning (Satterthwaite 2000),
there is as yet very little sign of any coherent approach emerging
within the framework of urban co-operation programmes. Perhaps
this requires more time, given the extent of the challenge posed by
the concept of sustainability to almost all aspects of development.
Certainly, attempts are being made, such as in the development of
sustainable development indicators and in occasional sectoral
approaches (e.g. ICLEIs CO2 reduction programme). However,
anyone using the term sustainable (urban) development should be
honest about the extent to which any project thus described is in
reality taking any concerted or consistent approach to the issue.
Regarding the changing international context within which urban
programmes and projects are being formulated and implemented,
there is certainly room for increased analysis of potential impacts on
people at the local level within development projects. Unfortunately,
there is little debate among staff of development agencies, and even
less among consultants carrying out projects on behalf of these
agencies, regarding the basic reasons why they are being employed
to do this work. Needless to say, this is on the whole rather sensitive,
as it potentially has an impact on promotion prospects and even on
job security. And yet it would seem a labour of Sisyphus not to say
rather hypocritical to be involved, for instance, in local poverty-
reduction programmes where the very ideological and political
context within which these are being implemented tends to create
the poverty in the first place!
Of course, there has been much academic debate about these issues
in the past: one merely has to think of the debates in the 1970s about
centreperiphery theories (which were too contentious to be

198 Development and Cities

admitted and hence studiously ignored by the development
agencies).13 All that needs to be added here is that there is an urgent
need to renew these debates and not let the machinery carry on
without critical insight.

Concluding remarks
We would reiterate the need to find whatever means to reorient ESAs
towards the urban realities of today; and their responsibility, if they wish
to remain relevant, to address urgent problems in urban development. In
the authors experience, there is a far stronger desire on the part of
Southern governments for bilateral resources to be directed to solving
urban problems than is reflected in the resources allocated by the
But if greater attention is to be focused on urban development, then
the way in which programmes and projects are constructed and
managed needs to change. As noted, there are pioneering programmes
that show the way towards flexible and open-ended ways of co-
operating. But, in spite of moves by a few ESAs to acknowledge the
problem and to reorganise their activities along programme lines,
the project approach remains dominant. In the way that ESA
bureaucracies work, it appears to be more convenient to run projects
over relatively short timeframes, and close the books within discrete
funding periods. It is also easier to demonstrate project successes
not only in commodifying them within short time periods, but also in
producing hard deliverables that can be shown physically, if possible
to anyone who might be sceptical of project benefits. It is against this
background that the new approaches have to be launched, if necessary
by changing the internal goals and structures of the agencies
A further underlying factor is the complexity of the very reasons for
development co-operation. While it is generally presented as a more or
less philanthropic gesture on the part of the more fortunate North,
where the electorate might feel some moral duty to assist the less
fortunate, this is clearly nave. There are many reasons for development
co-operation (Atkinson 1995) ranging from national political aims to
forge good relations between governments and with particular
interests, through pressure from private industry to sell their goods,
and also including public sentiment concerning the desire to alleviate
poverty in the South. There is also opposition to, and sometimes public

International co-operation in pursuit of sustainable cities 199

scrutiny of, the content of co-operation programmes, to which
governments must be sensitive.
The outcome is a complex compromise that cannot be dealt with
through simple assumptions on the part of concerned citizens with
regard to what should be taking place. That does not, however, mean
that concerned citizens (and development researchers and workers)
should not continue to push for changes in the way that development
assistance programmes (urban or otherwise) are identified, developed,
and executed. Indeed, everyone concerned should be urged to spend
some of their time distancing themselves from the immediate
development tasks and making whatever contribution they can towards
improving the way that things are done.
One more suggestion thus returns to the outline of a new paradigm
for urban programmes and projects presented in the third part of this
paper. The case needs to be put loudly, clearly, and frequently to the
ESAs that urban projects should not be defined in terms of short-term
sectoral inputs but that the typical urban project should be flexible,
open-ended, and integrative of many aspects and many interests within
those urban areas where they are located.
The second point here is that urban projects need participants who
are socially (possibly anthropologically) and politically aware of the
situation in which projects are developing. The pure administrators
and technicians, while having a place, should seek good advice (and be
prepared to take it) on the nuances of the situation in which the project
finds itself. Finally, we can only hope that neo-liberalism will soon have
run its course and that more attention can be given to the creation of
more regional and subregional frameworks for development that
protect local gains against the backwash (the predatory nature) of the
global economy.14
A closing plea (one that has often been made before and will continue
to be made well into the future) is for greater collaboration between
ESAs working in the urban field. While there are, unfortunately, strong
political reasons for non-co-operation that stem from the competition
between donor governments and, with regard to international
agencies, between agencies and even internally between departments,
constant efforts need to be made to overcome these. In some fields and
some countries, better co-operation has been forged and there are thus
models that need to be promoted.
One model is of collaboration between agencies on a regional basis
where each agency or type of agency contributes what it does best.

200 Development and Cities

The METAP programme on the Mediterranean environment, co-
ordinated by the World Bank but with the active participation of half a
dozen other international and bilateral agencies, has succeeded in
implementing some innovative projects. Some governments have
forced co-operation between agencies or, in other cases where there
were embarrassing consequences arising from lack of co-operation,
forums have been convened by the ESAs themselves to minimise
conflict and overlap. Such forums seem to have arisen only in areas
where development co-operation has become crowded.
One such situation has arisen in Indonesia, noted in the second
section of this paper, where ESA support of urban development
programmes has indeed become crowded. The result has been a call
on the part of the national planning agency, BAPPENAS, for all
agencies involved or interested in supporting such programmes to
meet regularly, to exchange information, and to co-ordinate their
efforts. We would argue that some mechanisms for collaboration in
urban development should become a standard part of the new
approach to ESA involvement in urban development as and when
resources are redirected in a more definite way into this field.

1 ESA is used here to cover UN agencies, issued a policy paper on research with
multilateral development banks, bilateral one of the priority themes being
development assistance agencies, research into how to combat urban
and various foundations and NGOs. poverty (DGIS 1992).
2 Estimates in the mid-1990s put the 5 A significant amount of innovative
average proportion of development urban research has been carried out
assistance disbursed by European by research institutions in the South,
development agencies for urban particularly in Latin America, without
programmes and projects at around direct reference to, or connection
6 per cent, with the World Bank, with, Northern institutions.
investing in heavy urban infra- 6 Over the past three decades substantial
structure, spending about 18 per cent amounts of information-gathering
of its funds on projects in urban areas have been commissioned by ESAs.
(Atkinson and Allen 1998). This has often been in support of
3 The first Global Report on Human the development of national
Settlements was produced by UNCHS urban policies and programmes,
in 1986 and regional reports were commissioned mainly from
produced subsequently. But the 1996 consultants, with few copies being
report was altogether more substantial produced, disseminated, or made
and, arguably, more influential. available to other researchers within
4 In 1992 the Dutch Directorate- ESAs responsible for developing
General of Development Co-operation urban programmes and projects.

International co-operation in pursuit of sustainable cities 201

For a review of the French case, see into abeyance, and we can only hope
Milbert (1992). that a debate in this general area will
7 However, decentralised co-operation soon be revived.
is used in different ways by different
sectors of the development fraternity. References
8 The following paragraphs are from
Atkinson (1998; 2000). Atkinson, A. (1992) The urban bioregion
9 There has, however, been a growing as sustainable development paradigm,
critique of development programmes, Third World Planning Review 4(4)
which has included some attempts to Atkinson, A. (1995) Urban environmental
construct a new paradigm. See management in Thailand, Trialog 45
Atkinson (1992), Korten (1990), and Atkinson, A. (ed.) (1998) Sustainability
Schuurman (1993) Through Peoples Participation in
10 This is the problem which Chairman Urban Development in Selected Asian
Mao, coming from a peasant back- Cities: The Indonesian Experience,
ground, had: fear of moving into those Dresden: Bro fr Stadtentwicklung
dens of vice, the cities! und Umweltplanung
11 Although it might seem incredible Atkinson, A. (2000) Promoting
that this romantic notion should still Sustainable Human Development in
be found among sensible people Cities of the South: A South-East Asian
involved in development, it never- Perspective, Occasional Paper No. 6,
theless appeared as a significant Geneva: UNRISD
argument against support for urban Atkinson, A. and A. Allen (1998) The
projects that was put forward to Urban Environment in Development
researchers recently investigating the Co-operation, Luxembourg: Office for
priorities of ESAs with regard to urban Official Publications of the European
development, particularly in the cases Communities
of Belgium and Norway (Both BAPPENAS/UNDP (1998) International
ENDS/ENDA Tiers Monde 1997). Emergency Assistance to Indonesias
12 By main aims is meant the intended Recovery, Jakarta: National Development
benefits to those in receipt of stated Planning Agency and UNDP
project benefits. Unfortunately, there Bundesministerium fr wirtschaftliche
are always non-stated benefits to Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung
projects that in practice contribute (BMZ) (1995) Sektorkonzept
to bringing them into existence. Umweltgerechte Kommunal- und
These include overt and covert Stadtentwicklung, Bonn: BMZ
political gains by individual politicians Both ENDS/ENDA Tiers Monde (1997)
and government departments and Big Cities Small Means: European
also the incentives provided by the Funding for Environment and Urban
possibilities for graft. Development. An Orientation Guide
13 With the notable exception of the UN for Southern NGOs, Amsterdam:
Economic Commission for Latin Both ENDS
America and the Caribbean (CEPAL). CityNet (1994) Report of the CITYNET/
14 It is unfortunate that the rich debates UNCRD/City of Makati Seminar on
about regional development that arose Recycling in Asia, Yokohama: CityNet
in the late 1970s and early 1980s CityNet (1996) Waste Water Management
(Sthr and Taylor 1981) have gone in Asia, Yokohama: CityNet

202 Development and Cities

Court, J.-M. (1998) West Africa: Urbanisation Samol, F. (1999) Nachhaltigkeit durch
and Transition to a Full Market Partizipation bei der Stadtentwicklung
Economy, Club de Sahel, Paris: OECD in ausgewhlten Stdten Asiens:
DGIS (1992) Research and Development, Empfehlungen fr die Deutsche
Policy Document of the Government of Entwicklungszusammenarbeit,
The Netherlands, Ministry of Foreign Forschungsberichte des BMZ Band
Affairs, Directorate-General of 125, Bonn: Weltforum Verlag
Development Co-operation, The Satterthwaite, D. (2000) Earthscan
Hague: DGIS Reader on Sustainable Cities, London:
Douxchamps, F. (ed.) (1997) Decentralised Earthscan
Co-operation: A New European Schuurman, F.J. (1993) Beyond the
Approach at the Service of Participatory Impasse: New Directions in Develop-
Development, Methodological Study, ment Theory, London: Zed Books
Brussels: COTA asbl. (for DG VIII Swiss Development Co-operation (SDC)
of the European Commission) (1995) Urban Development Policy, SDC
DPU (1999) Various research papers Sector Policy Series, Berne: SDC
posted by the Development Planning SIDA (1996) Towards an Urban World,
Unit, University College London, Urbanisation and Development
www.ucl.ac.uk/dpu/pui/ Assistance, Stockholm: SIDA
Haan, H.C., A. Coad, and I. Lardinois Sthr, W.B. and Taylor, D.R.F. (eds) (1981)
(1998) Municipal Solid Waste Development from Above or Below? The
Management: Involving Micro- and Dialectics of Regional Planning in
Small Enterprises. Guidelines for Developing Countries, Chichester: John
Municipal Managers, Turin: Wiley
International Training Centre of the Stren, R. (ed.) (1995) Urban Research in
ILO, SKAT, WASTE the Developing World, 4 volumes,
Korten, D. (1990) Getting to the Twenty- Centre for Urban and Community
first Century: Voluntary Action and the Studies, Toronto: University of
Global Agenda, West Hartford, CT: Toronto
Kumarian Press UNCHS (1996) An Urbanising World:
Lee, E. (1999) The Asian Financial Crisis: Global Report on Human Settlements
The Challenge for Social Policy, Geneva: 1996, Oxford: Oxford University Press
ILO UNDP (1991) Cities, People and Poverty:
Manning, N. (1999) World Bank Urban Development Co-operation for
Indonesia Civil Service Review, the 1990s, New York: UNDP
Washington, DC: World Bank UNRISD (1995) States of Disarray: The
Milbert, I. (1992) Diffusion et valorisation Social Effects of Globalisation, Geneva:
de la recherche urbaine franaise sur les UNRISD
pays en voie de dveloppement dans les World Bank (1991) Urban Policy and
annes quatre-vingt, Paris: Ministre Economic Development: An Agenda for
de lquipement, du logement, des the 1990s, Washington, DC: World
transports et de lespace Bank
Ringrose, N. (1999) The Challenge of World Bank (1999) World Development
Linking, New York: UNDP Report 19992000, Washington, DC:
World Bank

International co-operation in pursuit of sustainable cities 203

Mainstreaming the urban poor
in Andhra Pradesh
Banashree Banerjee

This paper is about the Andhra Pradesh Urban Services for the Poor
project (APUSP) currently being implemented in Andhra Pradesh state
in southern India by the Government of Andhra Pradesh in partnership
with the UK governments Department for International Development
(DFID). The project covers 32 Class 1 towns, which in 1991 had a
combined population of 5.5 million.1 The project goal is to achieve
sustained reduction in poverty and vulnerability of the urban poor
in Andhra Pradesh. The purpose is that the poor in Class 1 towns of
Andhra Pradesh benefit from improved access to more appropriate and
sustainable services (DFID 1999).
Over a seven-year period, the project is expected directly to benefit
more than 2.2 million slum dwellers in the 32 towns.2 However, in a
large country such as India, which has experienced many government-
and donor-funded poverty reduction programmes over the last three
decades, it is neither the scale nor the goal of APUSP that deserves
attention. Rather, the merit of APUSP lies in its approach to poverty
The concept of poverty reduction in APUSP is based on three
premises. First, reforms are required within municipalities in order to
improve their performance in poverty reduction activities. Second,
improvements in environmental infrastructure in slums have multiple
impacts on improving the conditions of poor people, but need to be
based on the demands of poor people and on the capacity of the
municipality to operate and maintain this infrastructure. Third, civil
society should be strengthened as a way to invigorate the interaction
between poor people and the municipality and to stimulate policies in
favour of the poor. This reflects the notion that poverty reduction
requires the building of partnerships in both government and
community or civil society, and that it needs to be based on the actual
needs of poor people.

204 Development and Cities

This concept has been translated into a three-pronged approach,
consisting of funding for three inter-linked components: municipal
reform (15.7 million); environmental infrastructure improvement
(66.1 million); and working with civil society (12.6 million). The
three components are expected to be mutually reinforcing in a number
of ways (DFID 1999).
The first two components are being undertaken by government and
are brought together in a medium-term rolling plan, the Municipal
Action Plan for Poverty Reduction (MAPP), articulated by each of the
32 municipalities with the participation of local stakeholders. Over
time, the parallel civil society initiative is expected to improve the
quality of participation and the poverty and vulnerability focus of the
MAPP. It is also expected to influence state policy.
The first year of project implementation (2000-2001) has demonstrated
the validity of the approach and the commitment of both partners (the
Government of Andhra Pradesh and DFID) to the project principles. It
has also brought into sharp focus the complexity of implementing
some of the key principles of APUSP. In the following sections we will
look into the practical implications, but first we will review the project
components and the MAPP process in order to gain a better under-
standing of their contribution to mainstreaming the urban poor.

Contribution of project components to sustainable

poverty reduction
Municipal reforms
Municipal reforms in APUSP aim to improve the way municipalities
undertake responsibility for poverty reduction, which involves a wide
range of improvement measures. With respect to infrastructure provision,
municipalities need to set up mechanisms for consultation in order to
determine and respond to the priorities of poor people. The municipal-
ities need to mobilise adequate skills and finances to provide services
as well as to operate and maintain them on a long-term basis. Even
though APUSP does not provide funding to municipalities for non-
infrastructure needs, the project expects them to co-ordinate poverty
reduction activities in such a way that these needs are not overlooked.
Municipalities have the legal obligation to undertake poverty alleviation.
As elsewhere in India, this duty has gained importance because of the
decentralisation of responsibilities to municipalities for several
activities, including poverty alleviation, brought about through the

Mainstreaming the urban poor in Andhra Pradesh 205

74th Constitutional Amendment Act (Ministry of Urban Development
1992). So far, however, decentralisation has meant additional respons-
ibility without additional powers or resources and with weak systems.
Municipalities depend largely on central or state government funds for
carrying out their activities but these funds are not always assured,
lending a high degree of uncertainty to municipal functioning. Planning
of any sort becomes difficult or even redundant and is therefore
However, there has been some change in the situation because of
initiatives of the Government of Andhra Pradesh in the last five years,
which place an emphasis on good governance and financial discipline
for greater autonomy of local bodies. Measures such as incentives for
higher revenue collection, support for the computerisation of certain
functions, and technical assistance for updating accounts have resulted
in improvement of the revenue position of most municipalities. User-
charges and private sector participation in service delivery have been
introduced on a small scale in a few municipalities. Greater accountability
in routine municipal functions has been introduced and Citizens
Service Centres have been established for the convenience of citizens.
Parallel to this decentralisation has been a process of democratisation
and increasing grassroots representation. The 74th Constitutional
Amendment recognises local government as the third tier of govern-
ment and Municipal Councils are democratically elected. One third of
the council seats are reserved for women. The recasting of the central
governments poverty alleviation schemes has meant that municipalities
are responsible for facilitating the formation of a structure of
representative women-only community-based organisations in slums.
Resident Community Volunteers (RCVs) are elected for a neighbour-
hood group (NHG) of 20-40 households; RCVs in a slum or ward3
form a Neighbourhood Committee (NHC) with one of the RCVs
elected as a Convenor. NHC Convenors form the Community
Development Society (CDS) at the town level and elect their own office
bearers (Ministry of Urban Affairs and Employment 1998a).
Programmes for the economic, social, and physical development of
poor areas are expected to be implemented with the active involvement
of the CDS structure. This has institutionalised the representation of
poor women and given municipalities some experience of working
with them.
The decentralisation and democratisation initiatives of government
provide a good starting point for reforms to sustain poverty reduction.

206 Development and Cities

The strategy adopted by APUSP is to build on existing initiatives of
good governance and financial management and also on the participatory
structures of slum dwellers. The basic tasks are to support municipalities
to bring about specified improvements in financial management,
planning, capacity for implementation, and mechanisms for consultations
with citizens, particularly with poor people. Broad indicative areas of
reform are: revenue improvement, institutional development, participatory
planning approaches, service delivery improvement, operation and
maintenance, training or skills upgrading, and other matters as
The premises of this targeted approach to reform are that better ways
of interfacing with citizens and their involvement in making decisions
that affect them will improve targeting. Similarly, improved revenue
assessment and collection will result in the generation of more
resources, and improved management of funds through transparent
accounting and budgeting systems will lead to better allocation of
resources for provision of services and for their operation and
maintenance. This, in turn, will provide more satisfaction to the users
of these services and give municipalities an incentive to take measures
such as cost recovery and tax increases which may otherwise be
politically difficult. The process will be further stimulated by a more
vocal and informed civil society which can impress on municipalities
the need to improve services for poor communities and involve them
in decision-making processes.
The central issue is that improvement in performance requires the
municipalities to be willing to change. Reforms that are driven by
government policy and state-government directives are one way to
bring about such change. In the long term, the pressure created by
a strengthened civil society may also induce change in the ways
municipalities work. However, if reforms are to benefit poor people in
any substantial way, the incentives have to be different.
In APUSP, funding for improvements in infrastructure for poor
people is expected to provide the incentive to reform. Measurable
improvements in performance are the trigger for gaining access to
APUSP project funds for infrastructure improvement. There are no
automatic entitlements for those municipalities who do not
demonstrate a commitment to change, to address the needs of poor
people, and the ability to operate and maintain the infrastructure
provided (DFID 1999).

Mainstreaming the urban poor in Andhra Pradesh 207

It is worth mentioning that the incentive system for pro-poor
planning is breaking new ground in Andhra Pradesh and in India.
Such a system is very different from the present policy and practice of
equal shares for different administrative units (district, town, ward)
based on per capita allocations. Allocations may currently be topped
up for particularly vulnerable groups, but they are never based on
Environmental infrastructure
The focus of APUSP on improvements in environmental
infrastructure is in response to the current deficiency and inability of
local government to deal with the situation. Such improvements are
urgently needed in most of the 32 towns covered by APUSP. This is
well illustrated by studies carried out during the design of the project
(see Table 1).
It is well known that municipalities do not generate sufficient
revenues to cater to the service needs of the growing population of poor
people. This has been taken care of to some extent by several central
and state government schemes undertaken during the last three
decades. However, their impact has not been significant. The
allocations have been meagre compared with the large and growing
need, and thinly spread in order to share the benefits across political
constituencies. Invariably the quality of services has been poor, and
deteriorated rapidly since there was no attention paid to allocations for
operation and maintenance. The schemes were top-down, with no
scope for municipalities or poor communities to comment on the way
they would be run. A significant change in the programmes being
implemented since 1998 is the involvement of women-only

Table 1: Environmental infrastructure deficiency in slums in Class 1 towns of

Andhra Pradesh

Infrastructure deficiency Percentage of slum households

No municipal water supply 46%

No latrines (open defecation) 29%
No all-weather roads 41%
No drainage 45%
No street lighting 20%

Source: APUSP project design studies, 1998

208 Development and Cities

representatives of community-based organisations in prioritising
infrastructure needs in slums and in implementing some of these
through community contracting (Ministry of Urban Affairs and
Employment 1998a and 1998b; Rao 2000).
APUSP project funds are primarily intended for in-settlement
upgrading of water supply, drains, latrines, roads, street lighting, and
garbage disposal within slum areas, and also for infrastructure
necessary to link these services to town networks. The adverse effects
of environmental problems such as area-wide flooding are also taken
into consideration. This is different from previous slum improvement
programmes, which did not consider linking arrangements and wider
environmental problems, often leading to drains without out-falls,
taps without water, and persistent flooding. Hygiene promotion is
included in APUSP as an adjunct to improvements in infrastructure in
order to enhance the health benefits of improved services.
This emphasis on infrastructure does not mean that the lack of it is
the only deprivation faced by poor people in Class 1 towns. Focusing on
infrastructure as a means to poverty reduction is justified by two
arguments. The first is that improvements in infrastructure have
multiple impacts on poverty. This has been amply demonstrated in an
impact assessment study of DFID-supported slum improvement
projects in India. It was shown that although infrastructure contributes
primarily to improving the quality of life, it also has positive impacts
on the survival and security dimensions of poverty by reducing
vulnerability to disease and improving conditions for income
enhancement (Amis 2001). The lessons from that study have informed
the design of APUSP. These findings are also supported by the
perceptions of poor communities in the Class 1 towns of AP. People
living in slums who participated in appraisal exercises during the
design of APUSP, identified multiple and wide-ranging benefits
arising from improved water supply, drains, latrines, roads, and
For example, people leaving in slums in Warangal (Tumulakunta
slum) commented that the provision of clean drinking water, latrines,
and drains meant less diarrhoea, less disease, fewer mosquitoes, and less
malaria. Fewer pigs grazing on the streets also meant improved safety.
Because people felt healthier, they would be able to undertake more
work, they would spend less on medicines, and their incomes would
rise. Access to a nearby clean water supply meant that women would
have more time free for both income generating and leisure activities.

Mainstreaming the urban poor in Andhra Pradesh 209

Better roads and street lighting meant that rickshaw carts would be
able enter the area, that people would be less likely to trip and fall, that
the risk of snake bites would decrease, and that women and children would
experience increased safety. Street lighting would enabe people to
undertake adult literacy and other study programmes, which would
then have benefits in terms of increased income (DHU Consortium 1998).
Overall, people identified improvements to their environment and
housing as improving their health, increasing their incomes, building
a sense of pride in their surroundings, and increasing their contentment.
The second argument for the focus on infrastructure is that
municipalities have some capacity to address the infrastructure needs
of poor people, but next to no capacity to address the more difficult
problems related to social deprivation, employment, and entitlements.
Even the better-equipped municipal corporations in the large cities
where DFID slum improvement programmes were carried out, could
not do justice to the social and economic components of those projects
(Amis 2001). The alternative strategy contained within APUSP is to
address non-infrastructure needs through the civil society component.
Strengthening civil society
The implication from the previous sections is that strengthening civil
society represents an attempt to strengthen the capacity of citizens,
particularly poor communities, to make demands of the municipality,
and this is an important part of the projects civil society component.
The other part is related to an attempt to find alternative channels,
through civil society organisations (CSOs),4 to address wider survival,
security, and livelihood problems faced by poor people.
The third component of APUSP runs as a parallel project because
the partners, channels of assistance, and types of activities are different
from the governance and service provision focus of the other two
components. Independent funding and technical assistance are
expected to provide an incentive for links with other non-governmental
networks and funding sources, thus widening the ambit of poverty
reduction activities.
The civil society initiative in a town starts with a participatory
planning appraisal (PPA), which is carried out by an experienced NGO
and involves different stakeholders in the town. The PPA explores local
concepts of poverty and vulnerability, livelihood strategies, poor
peoples perceived priorities, local views on programme and policy
implementation, etc.. Issues highlighted in the five PPAs carried out to

210 Development and Cities

date include aspects such as insecurity of tenure and employment,
alcoholism, violence, caste discrimination, difficulties in accessing
institutions and entitlements, poor services, poor health, vulnerable
population groups such as deserted women, elderly, unemployed
youth, etc.. The issues are not the same between different towns or even
between neighbourhoods in the same town.
The purpose of the PPA is to build a shared understanding of the
local dimensions of poverty and to form a town level working group
(TLWG) of CSOs and municipal representatives. The tasks of the
TLWG are to prepare a Town Level Framework Plan, to monitor
projects under the plan, and to support the building of local
partnerships for poverty reduction. Both the PPA and TLWG may have
representation from the municipality, but they are not driven by it.
A Management and Support Team (MAST) has been set up to
manage the Urban Initiative Fund (UIF) which can be accessed in three
different ways. First, contracts for programmes of three years or more
will be given to large NGOs or institutions for work in one or more
towns related to issues such as legal literacy, working children, etc..
Second, shorter-term more inclusive contracts with measurable
outcomes are issued for services in areas such as needs assessments,
consultancy services for poor people, capacity-building activities,
operational and action research, and communications material
development. The third window of access is through a Rapid Response
Fund, which aims to provide a large number of CBOs with direct access
to the UIF for capital expenditure related to the expressed needs of the
community. Projects will be prioritised in Town Level Framework Plans
and monitored by the TLWG. The CDS womens groups are expected
to be the main channels for this funding.
The UIF is expected to start operating in early 2002, once
procedures have been defined and possible CSO partners identified.
The UIF will provide windows of opportunity to those stakeholders
who are best-suited for specific poverty-reduction activities to
undertake the activities. Further, these activities will be defined in a
transparent manner, based on a shared understanding of local poverty.
This approach is expected to overcome the limitations of earlier DFID
slum improvement programmes where social, health, and economic
support programmes were implemented uniformly across slums by
municipalities with indifferent results (Amis 2001).
The PPA and accompanying research on its findings will also
inform social policy and, through MAST, may affect the way poverty

Mainstreaming the urban poor in Andhra Pradesh 211

programmes are structured in future. The immediate impact will be
on improving the poverty focus of the MAPP.

The Municipal Action Plan for Poverty Reduction as a

framework for mainstreaming the poor
MAPP objectives and concept
Each of the 32 municipalities is required to prepare a MAPP to enable
it to gain access to APSUP funds. The MAPP enables a municipality to
define how it will achieve three linked objectives in its own context.
These objectives derive from the principles of APUSP and are:
to improve municipal governance and management so that
municipalities become more efficient and responsive to the needs
of the people, especially poor people;
to improve environmental infrastructure for poor people in a
sustainable way;
to identify and undertake poverty reduction measures with the active
participation of poor people and civil society.
The MAPP is a rolling plan, updated periodically. It begins with a
Basic MAPP, in keeping with the current capacity of municipalities,
and later evolves to a Full MAPP (see Table 2). The MAPP contains the
municipalitys strategy, proposals, and implementation plan with
measurable outcomes for municipal reform and environmental
infrastructure and its approach to convergence5 with other poverty
alleviation programmes in other sectors, e.g. education, health,
employment, income generation, etc..
In the first year of project implementation, the Basic MAPP
Guidelines were drafted and piloted through a closely guided process in
three towns (Chittoor, Qutbullapur, and Rajahmundry), and finalised
after extensive consultation with municipalities. Guidelines were
prepared by the APUSP Team (Municipal Strengthening Unit and
Appraisal and Monitoring Unit) and consultants.6
The APUSP Team conducts interactive regional workshops for
five or six municipalities at a time. The main objectives are to
familiarise senior elected and executive municipal functionaries with
the guidelines and process, and to build their capacity to undertake the
preparation of their MAPPs. They may do so on their own or request
assistance from the APUSP Team. Ten municipalities are currently in
various stages of MAPP preparation.

212 Development and Cities

Table 2: MAPP concept

Elements Basic MAPP Full MAPP

Timeframe 1-2 years 3-5 years rolling plan

Database Uses existing data Develops database

Municipal reform - Simple and few reforms - More complex reforms

and performance - Essential training for MAPP and improvement measures
improvement - Training for performance
improvement also

Environmental In a few wards on the basis Phased yearly programme

infrastructure of selection criteria including a large number of

Convergence Only of urban poverty Includes programmes of other

programmes implemented agencies and UIF under C3
through the municipality

Resource Planned within DFID and Proposes to mobilise

mobilisation available resources additional funding

Source: APUSP Project Document, 1999

According to the guidelines, MAPP preparation follows a nine-stage

process in a municipality (APUSP 2001). It is worth summarising this
process as it contributes to setting up a participatory, inclusive, and
transparent approach to poverty reduction in a town-wide context and
within the framework of municipal planning and budgeting. The
process has the potential to contribute significantly to mainstreaming
the poor.7
Stages in MAPP preparation
Preparatory steps
Municipalities are required to form two local committees before
embarking on the MAPP process. The Municipal Reforms Committee
(MRC) is constituted to give strategic guidance to the MAPP process.
It is headed by the Mayor or Municipal Chairperson and includes the
local MLA/MP, the floor leader of the opposition party and other members
of the municipal council, the Municipal Commissioner,8 two persons
from outside the council, and the CDS President. The Municipal Task
Force (MTF) takes day-to-day responsibility for preparing a MAPP.
It is headed by the Commissioner and is a multi-disciplinary team
consisting of heads of the functional sections of the municipality.

Mainstreaming the urban poor in Andhra Pradesh 213

Stage 1: Getting started
The APUSP project and the purpose and process of the MAPP are
introduced by the municipality at a large meeting to which representatives
of a wide range of stakeholders are invited. The members of the MRC
and MTF are also introduced.
Stage 2: Problem identification
This starts with a workshop co-ordinated by the municipality with
representatives of stakeholder groups (elected municipal councillors,
municipal staff, CDS and other CBOs, NGOs, and other organisations
working with poor people). One third of the participants are women.
The participants work in groups to articulate a vision statement for the
town and identify problems with respect to poverty, infrastructure, and
municipal performance. The workshop identifies two working groups
from among the participants to provide a more detailed analysis of the
problems over a period of three to four weeks.
Working Group 1 on municipal performance improvement carries
out a municipal SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities,
and threats) in relation to financial status, staffing, service delivery, and
interfacing with citizens. The problems and their causes are analysed
with the involvement of the entire cross-section of municipal staff
and elected representatives and strategic objectives for improving
municipal performance are identified and ratified by the MRC.
Proposals are prepared to address these objectives and assessed against
criteria such as benefits, political and social acceptability, technical and
managerial feasibility, cost, and measurable outcomes within the
MAPP period.
Working Group 2 on poverty and infrastructure deficiency identifies
different kinds of poor settlements, uses existing data to rank them in
terms of poverty and infrastructure deficiency, and shows the ranking
on a matrix. It also places poor settlements in a city-wide perspective of
ward boundaries, service networks, and environmental problems such
as flooding, sea and river erosion, and pollution. This analysis is shown
on maps and charts. The poorest and most deficient settlements are
visited by a technical screening group to check site conditions and the
need for off-site infrastructure.
The two working groups meet to ensure co-ordination and
compatibility of outputs. The findings of Group 2 which are related
to need for better data, network design, staff capacity building,
equipment, etc. are incorporated into the municipal improvement
proposals of Group 1.

214 Development and Cities

Stage 3: Strategy formulation
A two-day workshop is convened with the participants of the problem
analysis workshop. The findings of the two working groups are presented
and the workshop recommends which poor settlements should be a
priority to be included, which strategy is to be followed for infra-
structure investments, and which reform proposals are to be taken up
in that MAPP. The MRC deliberates on the recommendations and
endorses them, with or without changes. The decision of the MRC and
the next steps in MAPP preparation are shared with the workshop
Stage 4: Preparation of reform proposals
The MTF reviews the reform proposals recommended by the strategy
formulation workshop and consolidates them into a set of proposals to
meet the strategic objectives for improving municipal performance.
The expected outcomes of each proposal are considered and an
implementation plan is prepared for the proposals.
Stage 5: Preparation of environmental infrastructure proposals
The first step at this stage is micro-planning with community groups
in the priority settlements. The process is undertaken by a community
micro-planning group, co-ordinated by the NHC Convenor and
consisting of all RCVs in the settlement, representatives of other womens
and youth groups, fieldworkers of programmes in the area (literacy,
health, woman and child development, etc.), and municipal sanitary
workers. The exercise is facilitated by a multi-disciplinary municipal
micro-planning team and takes four to five weeks. The broad steps in
the process are:
inventory of existing infrastructure and needs identification by
the Group, using participatory mapping techniques;
preparation of a draft Settlement Plan for Infrastructure;
technical assessment by municipal engineering staff;
community feedback and agreement on a final Settlement Plan for
Infrastructure showing rehabilitation proposals for existing
infrastructure and proposals for additional infrastructure;
discussion of different implementation and operation and
maintenance responsibilities.
The second step is the preparation of environmental infrastructure
proposals based on the Settlement Plans for Infrastructure and off-site
infrastructure needs. The engineering section of the municipality

Mainstreaming the urban poor in Andhra Pradesh 215

prepares these with assistance, if required, from the local office of the
Andhra Pradesh State Public Health Engineering Department (PHED).
The process is overseen by the MTF. An implementation plan is
prepared for the proposals.
Stage 6: Finalising the MAPP document
The MTF is responsible for this task. The document outlines the
process of MAPP preparation and gives proposals for reform and
infrastructure improvement as detailed in Stages 4 and 5. The MTF
cross-checks the document against APUSP appraisal criteria. The
document is presented to the Municipal Council for adoption.
Stage 7: Appraisal and approval
The AMU carries out concurrent field appraisal of the MAPP process
and final desk appraisal according to agreed criteria. These criteria
include poverty and gender focus, participation, and municipal
capacity to engage in these aspects. The Empowered Committee
approves the proposals on the basis of the appraisal report.
Stage 8: Preparation of detailed proposals
Detailed proposals are prepared after the MAPP is approved. The
proposals are expected to indicate clearly measurable outputs at
milestones, procurement and operation arrangements, and detailed
costings including for operation and maintenance. The infrastructure
proposals are broken up into sub-projects for appropriate contract
packaging. Small sub-projects for roads and drains may be contracted
to willing community groups. In any case, community groups are
expected to monitor contracts in their area.
Stage 9: Sub-project review
The sub-projects are reviewed for technical and managerial feasibility
by the AMU, after which funds are released.
The Basic MAPP process in practice
Experience from managing the MAPP process in the three pilot
municipalities shows that the process is valued by the municipalities
for its clarity, transparency, and acceptability. There is representation
of civil society, including poor communities, at all stages where problems
and needs are assessed and decisions made about solutions. The
guidelines represent a highly participatory process, both within and
beyond the municipality, which is completely different from previous
practice. For this reason most municipalities will require guidance for
preparing the first MAPP. In the following section we review how some
critical issues related to poverty reduction are dealt with in practice.

216 Development and Cities

Critical poverty reduction issues in the Basic MAPP
Availability of funds
Funding for infrastructure improvement for the poor is assured for
seven years, as long as the municipalities show adequate progress on
reforms and prepare MAPPs. Judging from the present enthusiasm,
these conditions will be fulfilled. The bulk of DFID infrastructure
funding is designated for in-settlement improvements. The selection
of priority settlements through the transparent process of analysis
and decision-making in the MAPP ensures that this funding will
necessarily benefit the poorest communities in the analysis. Off-site
infrastructure funds may lead to benefits accruing to the non-poor.
However, guidelines specify that only up to 35 per cent of the
infrastructure funds are to be used for off-site infrastructure, and that
at least 50 per cent of the beneficiaries should be poor. This implies that,
at the most, 17.5 per cent of the infrastructure funds may benefit
communities that are not poor.
If the convergence principle works, additional funds from other
programmes may be brought in, in addition to which funding for
poverty programmes such as Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rojgar Yojna
(SJSRY, the Silver Jubilee Urban Employment Programme) and the
National Slum Development Programme (NSDP) will be available to
the municipalities. At present there is a reluctance to bring these into
the ambit of the Basic MAPP for fear of complicating the process,
although this may be possible in subsequent cycles once the approach
has proved itself. The feasibility of converging programmes and
projects funded through the UIF will become clearer once the fund
starts operating.
The more ambitious and high-performance municipalities are
expected to generate local resources, some of which may fund poverty
reduction initiatives. They may also use the Full MAPP to mobilise
additional resources from national and international funding agencies,
some of which have already shown interest.
Targeting poor people for infrastructure improvement
The targeting of poor settlements in the MAPP is determined by two
interrelated parameters: poverty and vulnerability is one, and
infrastructure deficiency is the other. Shortcomings in quantitative and
qualitative terms for water supply, sanitation, drains, flooding or
erosion, roads, street lighting, and garbage disposal are used as

Mainstreaming the urban poor in Andhra Pradesh 217

indicators. The Basic MAPP Guidelines give guidance on selection
of the indicators and allow the municipalities to give appropriate
weightings, depending on local conditions, to each of the indicators in
order to arrive at a composite index of environmental infrastructure
Poverty and vulnerability indicators are grouped into three broad
categories: economic, social, and entitlements. Initially a wide range
of indicators was listed, based on earlier poverty data for the 32 towns,9
participatory poverty studies elsewhere in the country, and findings of
the first participatory planning appraisal. The poverty and vulnerability
indicators chosen at first were: below the poverty line (BPL), dependence
on daily wages, working women, and working children (for the
economic-income and employment-grouping of indicators); scheduled
caste or scheduled tribe (SC/ST) and illiteracy (for the social indicators);
and insecure land tenure or no ration cards (for the entitlements
The list of indicators was given for guidance to the three
municipalities undertaking the pilot MAPPs but the list eventually had
to be cut down to two indicators: below the poverty line (BPL) and
scheduled caste or scheduled tribe (SC/ST), since the information on
other economic and social indicators was incomplete. The inclusion of
entitlements as an indicator was considered controversial, since the
state government is currently reviewing its welfare programmes as part
of the World Bank-supported Andhra Pradesh Economic Reforms
Programme, and it had to be omitted for the time being. There seems
to be a political concern at state government level about raising
expectations which it may not be possible to meet because of policy
changes. So the composite indicator for poverty and vulnerability is
made up of BPL and SC/ST households, which are the conventional
indicators used for targeting poverty programmes in India.
Settlements are given scores for each of the indicators. The average
scores for poverty and infrastructure deficiency are then determined
separately and clustered into three ranges representing the worst, not
so bad, and best settlements. These ranges of one to three are used to
rank poor settlements according to poverty and infrastructure
deficiency and represent them on a simple matrix format (see Figure 1).
The settlements that are poorest and most deficient in infrastructure
are in the cell in the bottom right-hand corner (p3/i3).
The 3x3 matrix, as it is now called, has emerged as an appropriate
tool for targeting poor settlements for infrastructure improvement in

218 Development and Cities

Figure 1: Poverty and infrastructure deficiency matrix

Poverty and vulnerability (p)

Infrastructure p1/i1 P2/i1 p3/i1

deficiency (i)

p1/i2 p2/i2 p3/i2

p1/i3 p2/i3 p3/i3

Source: Based on Basic MAPP Guidelines, 2001

the MAPP. It gives a comparative picture of poor settlements in a town.

It is simple enough to be understood and used as a working tool by
a diverse group of stakeholders, including representatives of poor
communities. It is transparent and non-controversial and acceptable
to local politicians, poor communities, and municipal officials. The
analysis is carried out by the working group on poverty and infra-
structure which includes representatives from the major stakeholder
groups. In all three pilot MAPPs, the poorest and most deficient
settlements were selected at the strategy formulation workshop.
The matrix can be considered as a major breakthrough, considering
conventional and accepted practices of either evenly spreading
resources across all slums, or selecting slums on the basis of slum
notification and political constituencies. However, it has been criticised
by academics for presenting an oversimplified picture of complex
realities. It is argued that it is not the matrix but the data and indicators
which need to be more robust. The accepted approach of using existing
data for the Basic MAPP has its limitations, which are recognised by
the municipalities and the MSU. Consequently, pilot MAPPs for
Rajahmundry and Qutbullapur have included the need to improve
information on poor settlements in their reform agenda.

Mainstreaming the urban poor in Andhra Pradesh 219

The participatory planning appraisals are expected to demonstrate
the importance of certain indicators and help resolve certain issues
such as whether or not entitlements are critical as indicators of poverty
and vulnerability. The sharing of findings from the PPAs is an
important step in understanding poverty in the Class 1 towns, and
therefore, towards better targeting of poor people.
The other weakness related to targeting in the Basic MAPP is also
related to inadequate data: only notified slums have been included,
even though they form only a part of all poor settlements in a town. The
practice is to carry out detailed surveys only in slums notified under
the Andhra Pradesh Slum Improvement Act of 1956 (Government of
Andhra Pradesh). Government infrastructure programmes are
implemented in notified slums, unlike APUSP, which includes all poor
settlements (slums not yet notified, relocation areas, and housing
layouts for economically weaker sections, EWSs). Local knowledge
confirms that often the un-notified slums are much worse than notified
slums, both in terms of poverty and infrastructure deficiency. However,
it is the lack of data that prevents such settlements from being included
in the Basic MAPP, even though there is local political pressure to do
In this instance, advantage can be taken of MAPPs design as a
rolling plan and the opportunity to include critical inputs during the
seven-year life of the project. Better understanding of poverty,
resolution of welfare policy issues, and improved data may ultimately
lead to better targeting of poor people in subsequent cycles of MAPP.
Participation of poor communities
Micro-planning is now the accepted tool in India for eliciting the
participation of poor communities in determining their needs and
priorities and planning for improvement of their settlements. The
difference here is that micro-planning is nested within a wider town-
wide framework of participatory analysis and decision making, unlike
the usual slum-by-slum approach to participation, facilitated by
municipal or NGO field staff.
The MAPP uses to advantage the federated structure of womens
groups already existing in the towns. The functionaries of the apex level
CDS participate in the MAPP formulation workshops side by side with
the Mayor or Chairperson, councillors, Commissioner, and officials of
the municipality, MLA, MP, and other institutions. They are also
members of the working group on poverty and infrastructure

220 Development and Cities

deficiency. In addition, the CDS President is a member of the MRC.
This way the MAPP process gives participation of poor communities a
high priority in decision making.
Experience so far has shown CDS members to be equal to the
challenge of participating effectively with other stakeholders. This can
be attributed to the fact that they represent the primary stakeholders
and have been selected for their leadership qualities and ability to
negotiate and manage activities on behalf of poor people. They have
also attended capacity-building workshops conducted as part of the
SJSRY programme and by MAST. The MAPP process itself is a
capacity-building measure and gives all stakeholders equal opportunity
to participate.
Micro-planning is the first step in articulating funding proposals for
infrastructure improvement and is therefore given importance by
municipalities. It has been designed as an interactive process between
community groups and municipal field staff. RCVs and NHC Convenors,
who constitute the base and middle levels of the CDS structure, lead
problem identification and demand assessment, while the municipality
responds with technical solutions for infrastructure. Finally a joint
decision is made. This implies that both sides have to have the capacity
to deliver their part of the results and work together.
Experience from the pilot programmes shows that working with the
community is a new experience for many of the RCVs. They are not
even fully aware of their general roles and responsibilities. The brief
training on micro-planning is not enough of a basis for effective
participation. This is expected to change once the capacity-building
programmes of Component 3 reach the towns. However, that is
unlikely to happen before the first cycle of Basic MAPPs is completed
in the 32 towns.
Similarly, the Municipal Micro-Planning Teams have their weakness.
They consist of engineering, sanitation, and revenue staff, who are not
used to working with communities, and the brief orientation to micro-
planning is not sufficient to promote the skills and attitudes required
for such work. Only eight of the 32 municipalities have community
development staff. The APUSP project provides for recruitment of core
community development staff. However, so far the state government
has not been able to finalise the recruitment modalities. Project funds
will support community development staff as and when they are in
place. It is assumed that they will continue to be employed after the
project period as higher revenues generated by financial reform will

Mainstreaming the urban poor in Andhra Pradesh 221

mean that their salaries can be met, although of course this may not
happen in all towns.
In any case, it makes sense to develop skills and attitudes of other
staff, particularly engineers, for working with poor people. Micro-
planning, contract management, operation and maintenance of
infrastructure all require engineers to work with community groups.
This is seen as an important part of the municipal performance
improvement activity along with the training of elected representatives
to be more responsive to poor communities.
In addition to training and placement of community development
staff, the capacity of municipalities to work with poor people is expected
to be strengthened through appropriate communication and
information tools and expansion of activities of the present Citizens
Service Centres to include information services.
Meeting non-infrastructure needs
The Basic MAPP design relies on the principle of convergence for
meeting the non-infrastructure needs of poor people. The idea is to co-
ordinate and converge inputs from different sources, including
government and NGO programmes and initiatives under Component
3 of APUSP. This is not likely to be put into practice in the first cycle of
Basic MAPP.
Component 3 programmes have yet to be initiated. Even when they
are, it is difficult to see how the MAPP can serve as a co-ordinating
mechanism. Their success lies in linking up with the Town Level
Framework Plan, which may have very different timeframes and
processes. Addressing non-infrastructure needs through this channel
is more likely to be a parallel process.
Other programmes have their own norms for targeting and fund
allocation, which are difficult to match with the MAPP process and
timeframe. The levers for change do not rest with the municipality but
with the concerned funding institutions, with whom a policy dialogue
may have to be initiated.

Conclusion: sustaining poverty reduction and main-

streaming poor people
The MAPP is a good basis for sowing the seeds of sustainable poverty
reduction with the institutional focus of the municipality. The
investment in infrastructure improvement forms the starting point for
immediate improvements in municipal performance in terms of

222 Development and Cities

working with poor people, improved analysis of problems and
targeting, multi-disciplinary working, and allocation for operation and
maintenance of improved services. It remains to be seen whether or
not revenues will increase as a result of reform and, if so, whether they
are eventually used for improving the conditions of poor people and
for supporting institutional arrangements for working with poor
communities. A better-informed and vibrant civil society and
transparent processes may actually make that happen.
The MAPP also institutionalises and legitimises the participation of
women representatives of poor communities at strategic and
grassroots-level decision-making processes, and establishes a link
between the different levels. Transparent processes and the opening up
of opportunities for the participation of a wide range of stakeholders is
already beginning to have spin-off effects in terms of creating a town-
wide constituency for poor people. This will be taken further through
civil society partnerships and networks.
The functional and purposeful approach to participation in the
MAPP has its limitations and needs to be supported by an awareness
of rights and responsibilities and empowerment strategies of
Component 3 for medium- and long-term benefits.
The analytical and rolling nature of the MAPP allows weaknesses in
the areas of service delivery and working with poor people to either be
addressed as part of the reforms component or to be taken up in the
next MAPP cycle (e.g. data on poor settlements). APUSP places the
municipality almost in the position of a mother institution for poverty
reduction. Not only is it expected to adopt responsive procedures
towards delivery of services for poor people and their sustenance, but
also to be involved in the parallel civil society initiatives through the
PPA and membership of the Town Level Working Group. This brings
into focus the importance of municipal reform and performance
improvement and links up directly with the government policy of
decentralisation and municipal responsibility for poverty alleviation. It
is for this reason that municipal capacity building is high on the
APUSP agenda.
Together the APUSP project principles, its multi-pronged approach,
and the down-to-earth mechanism of the MAPP to translate these in
the context of each municipality create a highly conducive environment
for mainstreaming the concerns of poor people. The first year of project
implementation has shown that this is not an assumption but a reality.
The implication is that the sustainability of the MAPP process is, in

Mainstreaming the urban poor in Andhra Pradesh 223

itself, central to mainstreaming poor peoples concerns. The question
is whether the municipalities and state government will continue to
apply the process beyond the project period and whether it will be
applied in the other towns as well. It must also be understood that
mainstreaming poor people can only happen over a longer timeframe
and within a policy framework. APUSP can certainly demonstrate a
way forward and the ultimate test of the project will be in its influence
at a wider level: on social policy through the participatory planning
appraisals, on state and national programmes for pro-poor municipal
reform, on allocations for urban poverty reduction, and in expanding
the role of CSOs in empowerment and urban poverty reduction.

1 A nationwide classification based on (social, health, income generation,
population. Class 1 towns have a etc.) and resources (from donors,
population of between 100,000 and government, the private sector, poor
1 million. people) for addressing the felt needs
2 The slum population is often used and priorities of the poor.
as a proxy for the poor population, 6 The Government of Andhra Pradesh
even though it is well established that has appointed a Project Co-ordinator
not all people living in slums are poor. and set up a Municipal Strengthening
3 A ward is the lowest administrative Unit (MSU) and an Appraisal and
and electoral unit in a municipality. Monitoring Unit (AMU) under the
4 Civil society organisations (CSOs), Commissioner and Director of
for the purpose of APUSP, include Municipal Administration to manage
development NGOs, voluntary the first two components of APUSP.
organisations, academic and research Component 3 is managed separately
institutions, local media, community- by a Management and Support Team
based organisations, private sector (MAST). An Empowered Committee
companies, and professional and with state government and DFID
business bodies. representatives makes policy
5 The term convergence is often used decisions.
in India in relation to planned 7 Although APUSP does not use the
co-ordination of development term mainstreaming the poor, it
programmes, which address different does make an attempt to not leave
aspects of a broader problem. The poor people in the margins by
idea is to build synergies between institutionalising the planning,
interventions that may otherwise be financial and participatory mechanisms
separate and distinct. The term is for sustainable poverty reduction.
also used for pooling resources from 8 Municipal Corporations are headed
different sources. The MAPP and by elected Mayors and Municipalities
micro-planning provide the by elected Chairpersons. Four of the
framework at town and settlement 32 towns are corporations. Each
level for converging programmes Municipal Ward is represented by a

224 Development and Cities

Councillor or Corporator in the References
Municipal Council or Corporation.
The MLA (Member of the Legislative Amis, Philip (2001) Rethinking UK aid
Assembly) is the local elected in urban India: reflections on an
representative in the state government impact assessment study of slum
Legislative Assembly. The MP improvement projects, Environment
(Member of Parliament) is the and Urbanization 13(1)
local representative in the National APUSP (2001) Basic MAPP Guidelines,
Parliament. The Municipal Com- Hyderabad: Government of Andhra
missioner is the executive head of a Pradesh, Department of Municipal
municipality and is appointed by the Administration and Urban Develop-
state government for a term of about ment, available at http:
three years. //www.apusp.org/
9 Recent surveys of slums and poor DFID (1999) Andhra Pradesh Urban
people living in the 32 towns are: the Services for the Poor (APUSP),
Andhra Pradesh slum survey (1994), unpublished project document
the Below the Poverty Line (BPL) DHV Consortium (1998) APUSP: Draft
survey carried out as part of the Design of Institutional Reform and
Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rojgar Yojna Urban Services Components,
(SJSRY) programme (1998), and unpublished report
multipurpose slum survey as part of Government of Andhra Pradesh (1956)
the Janmabhoomi programme of the Andhra Pradesh Slum Improvement
Andhra Pradesh government (2000). (Acquisition of Land) Act, Andhra
Pradesh Gazette Part IV-B
Extraordinary, 15 November
Ministry of Urban Affairs and
Employment (1998a) Guidelines for
Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rojgar Yojna,
New Delhi: Government of India
Ministry of Urban Affairs and
Employment (1998b) Guidelines for
National Slum Development Scheme,
New Delhi: Government of India
Ministry of Urban Development (1992)
The Constitution Seventy-fourth
Amendment Act 1992 on Municipalities,
New Delhi: Government of India
Rao, K. Rajeswara (2000) Clean and
green cities: participation of
communities and neighbourhood
groups, Shelter 3(1)

Mainstreaming the urban poor in Andhra Pradesh 225

Learning from informal markets:
innovative approaches to land and
housing provision

Erhard Berner

Rapid growth of illegal settlements in and around cities can be viewed not
as the growth of slums but, in a very real sense, as the development of cities
which are more appropriate to the local culture, climate and conditions
than the plans produced by the governments of these same cities.
(Hardoy and Satterthwaite 1989: 8)

Introduction: the urbanisation of poverty

The 1980s and 1990s witnessed an unprecedented acceleration of
urbanisation processes worldwide. City dwellers will soon outnumber
those in rural areas, and virtually all of this growth is taking place in
developing countries. While this trend is nearly complete in most of
Latin America, latecomers like the countries of sub-Saharan Africa are
rapidly catching up. In the past, urbanisation was seen as a positive
process, linked to modernisation, industrialisation, and global integration.
In recent years, however, it has become obvious that relatively well-paid
and secure employment in the public and formal sector is available
only for a shrinking minority of the urban population. Economic
restructuring, driven by global competition and often accompanied by
structural adjustment programmes (SAPs), is destroying many of
these jobs and forces an increasing number of people to eke out a living
in the informal sector. Urban poverty poses a daunting challenge to
international, national, and local development policies: More than
600 million people in cities and towns throughout the world are
homeless or live in life- or health-threatening situations. Unless a
revolution in urban problem solving takes place, this numbing statistic
will triple by the time the next century passes its first quarter.
(NDow 1996: xxi)
In only very few countries has migration from the countryside been
curbed by the urban crisis and worsening living conditions. Cities still

226 Development and Cities

serve as safety valves for rural economies which are doing even worse:
Most people flee to the cities because no matter how life there may be,
it is generally better than the rural one they are leaving behind. Their
new homes may be squalid shanties without plumbing or heat. But at
least in the cities they have opportunity. (Newsweek: Megacities 10 June
1996) The fundamental precondition of grasping opportunity is
precarious though: it is access to urban space, which means access to
the city itself. Kolstee et al. (1994: 27) describe the policies of the closed
The urban authorities have tried to discourage new migrants in
various ways. The harshest measures include levelling illegal
settlements, expelling migrants without residence permits,
arresting illegal workers, campaigns against street trading,
prohibiting certain occupations and mass deportation. []
Such measures have seldom had the desired effect and certainly
not permanently.

In most developing countries, the formal market mechanism has

systematically failed to satisfy the rapidly increasing housing needs of
the population. It is estimated that between 30 and 70 per cent live
in irregular settlements, and this is a growing tendency (Durand-
Lasserve 1997: 11). According to the United Nations Centre for Human
Settlements (UNCHS), 64 per cent of the housing stock in low-income
countries, and up to 85 per cent of new housing, is unauthorised
(UNCHS 1996: 200). Self-help housing, vulgo squatting, has long been
seen as detrimental to sound urban development and orderly planning.
In the last two decades, however, it has been increasingly recognised as
the only means available to fulfil the immense demand for mass
housing in the cities, and thus as a solution rather than a problem.
John Turners influential book Housing by People (1976)1 and the first
Habitat conference in 1976 marked this paradigm shift towards an
enabling approach (UNCHS 1996: 337ff.; Pugh 1997). Getting the
incentives right for the formal private sector to move downmarket, the
strategy favoured by the World Bank, has largely failed to produce a
significant increase of low-cost housing supply (Baken and van der
Linden 1993; Jones 1996: 248). Recent literature on urban housing
(for instance the contributions in Habitat International 24(2)) widely
agrees that self-help housing is still the only architecture that works
(Turner 1968) in sheltering the poor.

Learning from informal markets 227

Sprawling informal settlements in and around most of the worlds
cities demonstrate the capacity of self-help housing. Of course they are
substandard, often even squalid, by conventional judgement, and
by that of most governments. Their image as slums, however, belies
the tremendous economic value they represent2 as well as the
indispensable role they play in the urban economy. Not only are they the
major base of informal-sector enterprises which, as Sassen (1991;
1994) argues, are gaining importance in the process of globalisation;
in many cities worldwide, the majority of the formal labour force and
even civil servants have no access to legal and adequate housing. The
role of squatter colonies is thus fundamental rather than marginal: the
urban economy is heavily subsidised by their existence, and cannot
function much less be competitive without this subsidy (Berner
1997b: 169; Aldrich and Sandhu 1995: 20).
In the urban context, poverty exists in stark and direct contrast to
wealth, modernity, and progress. Urban poverty is closely related to
physical segregation; while it is not restricted to the enclaves of slums
and depressed areas it is heavily concentrated in these places. This is
reflected in the views of analysts, policy makers, and activists. The
Philippine NGO newsletter Anawim highlights the environmental
implications: The urban poor have been commonly associated with
unemployment, shanties, overcrowding, filth, stink of uncollected
garbage, lack or total absence of social services, malnutrition and just
about everything that makes life miserable. (Anawim No. 3, 1987: 4)
For Cedric Pugh, this visual imagery expresses part of the reality, and
it is so plain and obvious that the nature of the relationship between
housing and poverty is seldom explored in-depth (1995: 34).
The fundamental importance of land and housing for under-
standing urban poverty is increasingly recognised: Housing which
meets adequate standards as well as cultural definitions of security of
tenure is an essential part of a decent standard of living. (Aldrich and
Sandhu 1995: 31) UNCHS (1996: 109) prefers housing poverty over
other definitions, notably income-based ones, though also deploring
the lack of reliable and comparable data. Table 1 presents the nature of
the relationship between housing and poverty as a multidimensional
one. Substandard informal housing has two major dimensions,
namely (a) lack of quality or infrastructure or space, and (b) insecurity.
Both are factors, indicators, and causes of poverty.

228 Development and Cities

Table 1: Dimensions of housing poverty

Housing as a factor Lack of quality, Quality of life affected by

of poverty infrastructure, and services crowding, noise, dirt,
pollution, garbage,
inadequate facilities
Health affected by lack of
sanitation, unsafe water supply
Future prospects affected by
restricted access to education
Insecurity Even households capable of
coping at present may be
thrown into emergency by
evictions (loss of assets,
inaccessibility of income
sources): vulnerability
Housing as an Lack of quality, Reliability: only poor
indicator of poverty infrastructure, and services households can be expected
to accept the above conditions
Insecurity But: research reveals that not
all residents of informal
settlements are poor
Housing as a cause Lack of quality, Lack of infrastructure
of poverty infrastructure, and services (electricity, water, accessibility)
is a liability for enterprises
Bad reputation may put off
potential customers
Insecurity Investments, particularly in
immobile assets and
environmental upgrading, are
prevented by the risk of

To clarify the argument still further, we state that housing poverty is

largely determined by land supply and allocation. Hardoy and
Satterthwaites (1989: 113) insight that there is no housing gap but
rather a dearth of suitable and affordable land for self-help housing is
meanwhile accepted among experts and officials who agree that urban
land is the essential ingredient (Murphy 1993: 42). Although Turners
scepticism of governmental activities was well founded, his plea for a
minimalist state has not stood the test of time (Werlin 1999). There is
overwhelming evidence that active policies are required in the
provision and distribution of this vital ingredient:

Learning from informal markets 229

Land, because of its unique nature and the crucial role it plays in
human settlements, cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled
by individuals and subject to the pressures and insufficiencies of the
market. Private landownership is also a principal instrument of
accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes
to social injustice; if unchecked, it may become a major obstacle in the
planning and implementation of development schemes.
(UN 1976: 61)

However, very few national and local governments have proved that
they can rise to the challenge.

Conventional policies: why do they fail?

With the cornerstones of the debate firmly in place, one would expect
effective policies of self-help housing promotion, and of allocation of
urban land in particular, to have emerged during the last 30 years.
However, very few of the slum upgrading and sites and services
schemes of the 1970s and 1980s, many sponsored by the World Bank,
took the land issue into consideration: While land tenure was recognised
as important, it was not seen as an essential precondition of successful
slum upgrading policies. (Werlin 1999: 1524) Even today, UNCHSs
Best practices database (www.bestpractices.org) reveals a remarkable
lack of land provision policies, a lack that itself needs explanation.
We will return to this question at the end of this paper. Governments
approaches to land and housing have oscillated between two extremes,
viewing housing either as a human right, or as a commodity like any
other. The latter position gained popularity in the course of structural
adjustment; the former has consequently gone out of fashion
(Gilbert 1999: 1073), but is currently being revived in South Africa
where the ANC administration feels duty-bound to provide millions of
houses to the suffering non-white population. Not surprisingly,
implementation is virtually non-existent.
If illegal settlements are merely seen as a violation of private or
public property rights, then the forceful and, if necessary, violent
restoration of these rights is the obvious solution. To date, states have
been far more effective in the destruction of mass housing than in its
construction. Apart from the legal aspect, massive demolitions and evictions
are justified on the grounds of improvement and beautification of the
city, removal of centres of crime and health hazards, and more
intensive and lucrative use of land in strategic locations (UNCHS 1996:

230 Development and Cities

245f.). Apart from human suffering and trauma, and the large-scale
destruction of assets, this policy is almost always unsustainable. As
relocation sites are rarely provided, and when they are they are in most
cases unattractive in terms of location and infrastructure, evicted
people find no alternative but to return to informal settlements in the
city. In not a few cases they actually reoccupy their old area. A case in
point is the Tondo area in Manila where more than 25 years after a large-
scale, World-Bank-sponsored resettlement project (Rland 1982), huge
squatter settlements still persist.
Social housing produced by the state is the other extreme. With the
notable exception of Singapore,3 however, governments in developing
countries have proved neither effective nor efficient as housing providers.
Typically, immense expenditures for land and production yield
negligible output, with the profit pocketed by speculators and poorly
monitored contractors. To make things worse, most of the programmes
suffer from huge targeting errors. Despite the subsidies, the land costs
and adherence to inappropriate building regulations (often derived
from colonial models; see Hardoy and Satterthwaite 1989: 38ff.) make
the resulting products unaffordable for the poor, so they tend to end up
in the hands of the rgimes cronies and other privileged groups.
Since the 1970s, participation and self-help have become the
buzzwords of the low-cost housing debate. Slum upgrading and sites and
services are the major approaches to introduce these elements into
practical policies. Both are steps in the right direction. Obviously, it is
more efficient to improve existing settlements and provide them with
infrastructure than to produce new ones from scratch, and to supply
serviced land for self-help housing than merely to watch uncontrolled
slum proliferation. Yet the overall performance of upgrading and sites
and services schemes is disappointing (UNCHS 1996: 344ff.). Werlin
(1999) goes as far as to call slum upgrading a myth.
Again, planning standards for upgrading are often unrealistically
high. This leads in turn to rising living costs and the uprooting of
considerable parts of the population, of course usually the poorest
(Hasan 1992). Their resettlement, sometimes welcomed as decongestion,
entails social, political, and financial costs. Inappropriate standards
also increase the necessary public investment which either leads to
narrow single interventions (e.g. paved pathways) or severely limits the
outreach of the programmes. In most Third World cities, newly
emerging slums by far outnumber upgraded old ones in any given
period. Even Indonesias Kampung Improvement Programme (KIP),

Learning from informal markets 231

widely considered as one of the most successful large-scale upgrading
schemes, suffers from a fundamental flaw: the question of land tenure
is not addressed. Many of the improved settlements are still technically
illegal. The resulting insecurity has limited participation and led to
considerable maintenance problems (Silas and Indrayana 1988).
The market price for urban land in (more or less) attractive locations
has also hampered sites and services schemes. Prime land is of course
not available for this purpose. Private owners would expect adequate
compensation, and governments will be hesitant to squander their
own property. In effect, most sites and services projects are carried
out in remote peripheral locations, often 3040km away from the city
centres. Only people without any choice will accept these conditions.
In a rather typical case from Pakistan, out of the 15,000 plots
developed, by 1985 only 35 plots were found to be inhabited; the rest
remained vacant (Siddiqui and Khan 1994: 279). In more central
locations, serviced sites ended up in the hands of affluent groups, often
after being subjected to various forms of speculation (van der Linden
This discussion should not create the image that many governments
come up with consistent policies. By far the most common approach is
that of muddling through (Durand-Lasserve 1997) and consists of
long periods of negligent tolerance and inactivity, interrupted either by
violent campaigns against squatters or by populist distribution of
benefits among some of them. The latter includes, particularly in Latin
America, the legalisation of certain settlements while at the same time
carefully avoiding setting the basis for legal claims by others.
Baross (1990) provides a systematic account of the reasons why
conventional policies inevitably end up in the too little, too expensive
trap, arguing that formal housing development be it private or
public is characterised by the sequence of PlanningServicing
BuildingOccupation. At each step a steep price increase occurs,
usually further fuelled by speculation. In Rio de Janeiro, for instance,
the land conversion multiplier (price increase through planning) is
estimated at 40, and the land development multiplier (price increase
through servicing) at a further 11 (UNCHS 1996: 250f.). It is principally
this process that makes formal urban housing an extremely scarce and
expensive commodity, an architecture that does not work for a large
proportion of the population.

232 Development and Cities

Informal land markets: why do they work?
Faced with market and state failures, most urban dwellers in the
developing world have to rely on their own initiative in order to find
shelter. The crucial question is how, or more precisely where, informal
settlements emerge. The terms spontaneous settlements and clandestine
subdivision suggest that urban land is just there for the taking by
enterprising individuals and families. This picture is misleading. Even
for the most modest demands, a parcel of land has to fulfil two minimal
conditions to be suitable: accessibility (some public transport) and a
source of water. To be attractive, it has to be located not too far from the
places of employment, i.e. industrial and commercial centres. If such
idle land does exist, it is as a rule hazardous. Places like mountain slopes
and riverbanks put their inhabitants at physical risk, especially in the
tropics, which experience rainy seasons. Residents of dumping
grounds and heavily polluted industrial areas are not much better off.
If a suitable site is vacant because it is being held back for speculation
purposes, the owner will use all means available to evict unwanted
Less marginal locations in the city usually have a price tag attached
to them. Even sidewalk dwellers in India or the Philippines have to pay
regular fees to policemen or syndicates. Denis Murphy, one of the most
experienced practitioners in the area of housing problems in Asia,
comes to the sobering conclusion that there is no free squatting (1993:
vii; cf. Berner 1997a: 69f.). Pal Barosss (1983) distinction between non-
commercial and commercial articulation of illegal land supply thus
becomes questionable. Where traditional systems of land allocation exist
they are often losing significance or becoming commercialised
themselves (see, for instance, Payne 1997: 6ff.; van Lindert and van
Westen 1991).
Although the extent and characteristics of extra-legal development
vary from country to country (as well as between cities and even
between settlements), it is safe to say that it serves a large share of the
low-income population, and of incoming migrants in particular:
Illegal or informal land markets have provided the land sites for
most additions to the housing stock in most cities of the South over the
last 30 or 40 years. (UNCHS 1996: 239) Among the major influencing
factors, all of them interrelated, are (a) economic development and
political system of a country; (b) size and growth of a city; (c) availability,
quality, and ownership status of unsettled land in and around the city;

Learning from informal markets 233

and (d) governments ability and willingness to enforce the law and
implement its policies. Of course, this constellation also varies over
time. The recent economic crisis in South-East Asia, for instance, at
least temporarily altered the situation in the affected countries by
reducing competition for urban land. Commercial development was
reduced as even ongoing building activities became unviable, and
many speculators had to sell at almost any price to prevent going
bankrupt. At the same time, governments tended to show more
tolerance of illegal settlements in order to regain some of the popularity
formerly based on continuous economic growth. At the time of writing,
however, the pressure on informal settlements had largely returned to
the pre-crisis level.
As in the case of the informal sector, definition of extra-legal
subdivision is basically residual as transactions in the informal land
market are not controlled and registered by the authorities. This
implies that houses are built without permits and that their quality as
well as the provision of infrastructure may be substandard, which is
precisely what makes them affordable for low-income groups: It is
their ability to cut corners and costs which has helped the
commercial subdividers to expand their operations and to provide plots
which are more appropriate, affordable and easily available than any
other housing option. (Payne 1989: 2) The land subject to extra-legal
subdivision is often destined for other purposes, e.g. agricultural,
recreational, or as natural reserves. Obviously, most of the land suitable
for such purposes is located on the urban fringe. It cannot be too
remote, however, because, unlike middle-class suburbanites, the
prospective buyers do not have private vehicles and can ill afford high
transport costs in terms of money and time.
Apart from these common characteristics, there are notable differences
in the legal status of settlements. Baken and van der Linden observe a
continuum of subdivisions, ranging from almost, or partly, legal to
completely clandestine (1992: 29). Private landowners may themselves
act as developers and sell or rent out parcels. This procedure can be
seen as semi-legal, as property rights are not violated. Moreover, this
type of tolerated invasion is beneficial for all parties involved. The
settlers find shelter and relative security of tenure at a modest rate (at
least initially); they accept in turn that infrastructure is at best minimal,
at worst non-existent, and they have to develop the place through their
own efforts. The owners not only derive a short-term profit from
rent or sales; the settlers convert barren hillsides, marginal fields, or

234 Development and Cities

swampy marshes into housing land, thereby increasing their value and
creating a fait accompli for future use. As the landowners usually keep
the formal title, they can later capitalise on the value-added. As noted
elsewhere, they may either continuously raise the rent or declare their
tenants to be outright squatters when the city closes in on the formerly
marginal locations (Berner 1997a: 143ff.).
As urban land markets are commercialised, the conversion business
is increasingly being taken over by professional, tightly organised
syndicates which make huge profits out of the housing needs of
low-income groups (Amis 1984; Payne 1989). In order to do so they
have to be capable of establishing effective control over a suitable piece
of land. Like the whole phenomenon of extra-legal subdivision, the
strategies of squatter syndicates vary between places and over time.
Outright land-grabbing against the expressed will of the legal owner
appears to be rare, except in cases where the syndicates have political
backing (Baken and van der Linden 1992: 23; Turkstra 1998: 20). In the
case of public land, local administrators, police officers, or military
personnel almost invariably have a hand in the syndicates either
actively or as recipients of bribes. In the extreme, politicians and
officials manipulate the regulations to create artificial shortages and
drive people towards the informal sector, which may then be supplied
by the public officials acting as private developers but using public
land. (Jones 1996: 250)4 Depending on culture and legal system, local
strongmen like chiefs (who in parts of Africa have the traditional right
to decide on land use) or party officials (who play the same role in some
former socialist countries) may also be powerful stakeholders.
Developers initial investment in infrastructure is restricted to the
most basic needs. As noted above, one such necessity is accessibility as
people have to get to and from their place of work. A basic access road
will attract suppliers of public transport, e.g. communal taxis, tricycles,
or trishaws (often unregistered themselves); in some countries people
are willing to walk long distances, in which case a pathway may be
sufficient. The second precondition is a source of water, for which some
faucets are set up, a deep well is drilled or at least a delivery service
organised. Illegal electricity tapping is not uncommon. Environmental
concerns, with sanitation and garbage removal, for instance, are
obviously not high on the list of priorities.
The serviced land can then be subdivided and sold though what
is actually sold is the right to squat on a certain plot, and no one
mistakes this for a legal title (Payne 1997: 7). It is not uncommon for

Learning from informal markets 235

part of the land to be set aside for speculation purposes (UNCHS 1996:
243). Another pattern is slumlordism, i.e. acquisition of several plots
by a single person who rents them out with or without a house. The first
wave of occupants is commonly organised in a larger group to reduce
the vulnerability of the settlement in the critical initial period; this
procedure can easily be mistaken for a non-commercial invasion.5 The
going prices within a city depend on location or centrality, security of
tenure, and quality of infrastructure. Although empirical evidence is
scattered, it is safe to assume that the informal land market functions
pretty much like its formal counterpart, so that comparable plots will
yield similar prices. Customers are often renters from other low-cost
settlements who have saved enough (or have access to sufficient credit)
to pay a considerable down-payment and save on regular rent payments
in future (van der Linden 1990).
Saving on rent is, however, not the only rationale of low-income
groups that are striving for home ownership. A house, even if it is just
a shanty in an informal settlement, is after all an assetone that is likely
to grow in value in the course of urban development. In newer debates
about poverty, lack of assets is identified as a major aspect of the
poors vulnerability (e.g. Chambers 1995; Moser 1998). Incremental
improvements to the house, in this view, are a form of savings as labour
and capital are invested to make the asset more valuable. Hardoy and
Satterthwaite, quoting a Brazilian squatter, underline that not only
material input is involved: The value of my house 26 years of struggle.
(1989: 62) Increased security, however, is precarious. First, in the case
of an eviction, the whole property may be lost in an instant (which is
just another form of vulnerability); second, even in emergencies people
will think twice about selling their house as this may jeopardise their
access to their sources of income. Improving security of tenure is thus
a major goal for residents of informal settlements.
To sum up, squatting and renting from squatters (cf. Rakodi 1995)
is not a cheap way to live in the city. On top of the price of land rights
and other illicit payments, costs of water, electricity, and other services
are normally much higher than those regular customers pay. Taking
into consideration the often congested living conditions and the lack of
open space, residents of extra-legal subdivisions may pay just as much
money per square metre as those in legal ones, sometimes even more.
The major benefit lies in the possibility of incremental development
and building improvement which leads to a spreading of the costs:
Ultimately, the difference between the two systems is probably not the

236 Development and Cities

price limit per se but the way low-income families phase their expenses
for housing. (Baross 1990: 7)

Facilitating self-help housing: innovative approaches

The Philippine Community Mortgage Programme (CMP)6
The housing situation in Metro Manila and other urban centres in the
Philippines is typical for a developing country. To date, neither the
market nor the state have accomplished much in terms of mass
housing. Housing policies under the Marcos rgime were fragmented
and largely ineffective (see Berner 1997a: 28ff. for a comprehensive
discussion). Ambitious programmes of public housing turned out to
be far too expensive for the alleged target group of the urban poor and
served mainly the rgimes vassals. Relocation to mostly unserviced
sites outside the cities and, even more frequently, large-scale demolition
remained the favoured solution to the housing problem. As a result,
roughly half of the Philippines urban population is living in illegal
settlements on public or private land.
The Community Mortgage Programme (CMP) was the first result
of the paradigm shift towards enabling government in the field of
housing, aimed at a more equitable and more rational use of urban
land. The programme was passed in 1988 and launched in 1989,
but significant implementation was started only under the Ramos
administration after 1992. In 1992 it was integrated into the frame-
work of the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA), which is,
at least in principle, a comprehensive approach to the problems in
question. Both CMP and UDHA came into being as a reaction to
intensive lobbying by NGOs and grassroots groups.
In a nutshell, CMP offers squatters the opportunity to buy the land
they occupy (or comparable land if that is not possible, e.g. in the case
of priority projects) without compulsory and costly upgrading measures.
Like other recent credit programmes (such as the Grameen Banks
schemes), the CMP requires beneficiaries to be organised, as the land
titles are transferred to associations rather than individuals. After the
residents and the respective landowner have agreed on a price, the land
is paid for through a state credit which is to be repaid over a period of
25 years. NGOs are involved in all stages of the process. They inform
the squatters about the legal requirements (e.g. official registration of
the association), assist them during the negotiations with the owner,
offer services like surveying and legal consultations, and serve as

Learning from informal markets 237

originators (guarantors) of the loan.7 The crucial problem for all credit
programmes aimed at poverty alleviation the target groups lack of
collateral, which results in poor recovery rates is thereby avoided.
First, there is a collateral as defaulters will lose their land titles after a
period of grace; and, second, NGO originators will put pressure on the
residents associations, which transmit this to their tardy members.
Another advantage of the CMP is its cost efficiency. A maximum output
can be realised on limited fiscal burdens by capitalising unproductive
public property. Much of the land in question is owned by government,
and private owners can be compensated in kind through land-
swapping schemes.8
The question remains, however, that of how and why the CMP
works. On the surface it is a conventional consolidation scheme,
market-oriented in an almost neo-liberal way, and fully committed to
the goal of cost recovery. Despite supposedly being aimed at the poorest
30 per cent of the urban population, there is no regulated price discount.
Subsidised interest rates have a limited effect on beneficiaries burdens
the subsidy is in fact criticised as jeopardising the programmes
sustainability (Lee 1995). As compulsory expropriations are not
provided for, the owners can expect to get the full value of their land. In
short, the CMP alone cannot solve the sharpening contra-diction of
high land prices and the low incomes of the large majority of the
population. Under market rules, it would at best produce middle-class
settlements on the citys outskirts.
Access to urban land or the right to the city, as Lefebvre (1974)
puts it is, however, not exclusively regulated by the market mechanism
but is an eminently political issue. The distribution of space in the city
cannot be grasped without the added dimension of conflict and struggle
(Berner 1997a: 38f.; Castells 1983: 3). The existence of potential and
actual resistance to displacement is a precondition for the meaningful
implementation of the CMP. Urban land is significantly depreciated
by squatter occupation as it is not immediately available for the market.
The market value of land is thus fictitious in considerable parts of the
city: owners can dictate the price only if they can establish actual control
of their land. This process is tedious, costly, and risky. As the residents
are often capable of organising themselves and find allies among
NGOs, media, church people, and local politicians (Berner and Korff
1995), the outcome of an eviction attempt can hardly be predicted by
the landowner. Against such a background, landowners are willing to
offer substantial discounts. In the cases we observed, residents paid

238 Development and Cities

only about 1520 per cent of the market price of comparable idle land
in the vicinity. The resulting expenses are in most cases considerably
lower than the rent for a single room at the same place.
The CMP has been quite successful in Manila and elsewhere
because it offers the chance for a compromise between contradictory
motivations: the owners can sell their land and revive dead capital,
albeit at reduced prices, without the incalculable costs and risks of a
demolition; the squatters can buy security and preserve their settle-
ment from the permanent threat of eradication that has never been
One of the unintended consequences of the CMP is its divisive
impact on the participating communities:
Ironically, the ultimate success of one local organisation the legal
purchase of the locality land through the Community Mortgage
Programme had a deeply disruptive impact on the community.
For about one third of the population, mainly the poorer ones,
it meant that they had to pay for the land they used to live on for free,
and pay more than they could afford. (Berner and Korff 1995: 217)

The more specific the figures of future payments, the more people
decide that they cannot accept the necessary cutbacks on consumption
or they are altogether unable to shoulder the financial burden. A family
with sufficient income sources in the settlement or its vicinity will be
willing to pay much more than those who commute long distances or
have no regular job. What starts as a process of internal division almost
inevitably turns into open and violent conflict. After the transfer of
property rights, the association has to pay for the land more precisely,
for all of the land; the owners are not interested in selling scattered
plots, so that those whose occupants wish to stay remain as squatters.
The beneficiaries, thus, not only have to pay for their own land but also
for that of non-members. On the other hand, there is plenty of demand
for the land in question from within and without the settlement. Many
residents would like to enhance their congested living conditions, build
rooms to let, or invite relatives to move to Manila; for others, the former
squatter land is simply an outstanding bargain. While the marginalised
sectors of the population are expelled by their neighbours and forced
to find shelter in other squatter settlements, the former slums become
middle-class areas.9 This change is very visible: no longer forced to
keep their property mobile, the new landowners invest heavily in
upgrading and extending their houses and enhancing the environment.

Learning from informal markets 239

Hyderabads incremental development scheme Khuda ki Basti
Unlike the CMP, and for reasons to be discussed below, the incremental
development scheme in the Pakistani city of Hyderabad has remained
an isolated intervention (notwithstanding a small-scale replication in
Gharo which was initiated by an NGO without clear authorisation from
the government). However, Khuda ki Basti (meaning settlement of
God) went farthest in terms of learning from informal markets by
actually imitating illegal developers strategies. It is thus exemplary for
the argument of this paper. KKB came into being in 1986 as the
reaction of the Hyderabad Development Authority (HDA) to a familiar
situation: government-produced townships occupied by the middle
classes, a gaping void in sites and services projects, and rampant illegal
subdivision and squatting.
Based on Jan van der Lindens groundbreaking ideas, the HDA set
aside 100ha of a large sites and services scheme some 12km outside the
city centre, but only 1km away from a rapidly growing cluster of
squatter settlements. The land was subdivided into 70m2 plots and
serviced only by the two essentials, namely a feeder road and
communal water supply. The costs for this initial infrastructure were
covered by a modest entry fee of US$33, thereby undercutting the
going rates on the informal market by as much as two thirds (Siddiqui
and Khan 1994: 283). However, there was no attempt to exclude the
informal sector completely; suppliers of simple building materials,
credit, and advice were allowed in the area.
A simple one-window procedure and non-implementation of
building regulations except for the layout, were the fundamental
preconditions for the success of the scheme. Both the HDA and the
support NGO Saipan maintained offices at the site to provide advisory
services and monitor the implementation. Beneficiaries could improve
their houses over time according to their individual financial capacities,
and additional infrastructure was provided if and when certain
amounts of savings not instalments, note could be collected. If the
target of US$1.75 per month was met, full ownership of a fully serviced
plot could be obtained in a period of 15 years. While there were some
defaulters, others accumulated funds far in excess of the targets in
order to get facilities quickly.
To achieve targeting and discourage speculators, a unique system of
reception camps was applied for a certain period of time. Only families
who came to these camps with all their belongings and stayed for a

240 Development and Cities

number of days were eligible for a plot.11 Beneficiaries had to start
construction immediately, and land titles (or rather entitlements called
dwelling permits) were given only after completion of a house and
could be cancelled if the plot was vacant or the house abandoned. This
method of self-targeting made the scheme unattractive for non-poor, to
the extent that one can actually speak of over-targeting. The presence
of some better-off people with higher education in real informal settle-
ments is beneficial to the communities as they provide employment as
well as leadership (Berner 1997b: 175). KKBs marked social
homogeneity led to a low level of local economic activities (and may
have contributed to difficulties in community organising, as we shall
see below). This became obvious when during ethnic turmoil between
1989 and 1992, transport to Hyderabad was difficult and nearly half of
the residents left the area.
Not surprisingly, informal developers put up the fiercest resistance
to the scheme. It is quite obvious (but often overlooked) that syndicates
and middlemen will not easily accept being eliminated. In the KKB
case, land-grabbers connected with the Board of Revenues (the
supposed custodian of public land) invaded the scheme by extorting
fees from bona fide residents, encroaching on parts of the land, and
threatening HDA personnel with violence and abduction. Establishing
a police post worsened the situation as the police took the side of the
syndicate and began to harass the residents themselves (Siddiqui and
Khan 1994: 288). Even more threatening was the land-grabbers
influence in the political and administrative system. Several serious
attempts to sabotage or abolish the scheme outright were frustrated
only because it had gained some national and international recognition
(interview with Monique Peltenburg, a co-worker of van der Linden).
Non-replication, despite clear advantages over the conventional sites
and services approach, however, seems to indicate that vested interests
in informal housing eventually prevailed.
More generally, KKB reveals the limitations of innovative schemes
without basic changes in societys power structure and even without
any definite political programme in favour of the poor (Siddiqui and
Khan 1994: 289). Community participation in the KKB case was
merely technical. Residents were unable to organise themselves
effectively and remained caught in the dependency of traditional
patronclient relations (van der Linden 1997a). Instead of getting
legitimate demands fulfilled, they received favours that could be
withdrawn, and easily withheld from others in need.

Learning from informal markets 241

A number of lessons for sustainable housing and land-use policies can
be drawn from the above discussion. In Jan van der Lindens words,
what is needed in brief is a bridging of the gap between the legal and
the illegal systems, starting with the recognition that illegal systems
have in the past achieved far more than any official initiative (van der
Linden 1994: 225; see also Fekade 2000; Kombe and Kreibich 2000).
There is always a need for active policy in urban environments. To
expect market forces to generate a rational distribution of urban land
has proved a mistake, to say nothing of being inequitable. Industrial
and commercial ventures are able to bid much more for the use of
limited urban space than all but the wealthiest groups. Even in the
industrialised countries, governments take this into consideration
by applying a certain policy mix of zoning, land price control and
taxation, rent ceilings, provision of or support for low-cost housing,
or rent subsidies.
Given governments limited resources and capacity they should
simply abandon the role of housing provider and turn towards a
truly enabling approach. In other words, they should contribute the
essential ingredient, namely land, and leave housing production to
peoples initiative. Effective co-operation between government and
other actors, NGOs and the private sector in particular, is an
essential element of the enabling approach.
The conventional sequence of planningservicingbuilding
occupation turns raw land into a scarce and expensive commodity,
especially if cumbersome administrative procedures and transaction
costs are considered. The lesson to be learned from illegal subdividers
is to reverse this sequence: start with absolutely minimal infra-
structure and services and allow for incremental development of
individual houses and settlements. This strategy implies the need
for a thorough revision of regulated standards, and an annulment
of most of them.
The fundamental importance and tremendous economic value of
the existing housing stock whether or not is was produced legally
should be recognised. This suggests the need for large-scale
consolidation and legalisation of squatter settlements. Insecurity of
tenure, apart from increasing peoples vulnerability and putting
their assets in jeopardy, is a major obstacle to investment: as

242 Development and Cities

squatters are forced to keep their property mobile they are reluctant
to put money into productive ventures.
Insecurity is also a fundamental cause of the persistence of
unsanitary conditions. Environmental upgrading requires considerable
investment and the long-term commitment of the residents, e.g. in
non-pollutive sanitation and waste disposal management (Lee
1998). Such contributions are unlikely if people are unsure whether
they will enjoy the benefits.
If demolitions are unavoidable, it is crucial to have an adequate
relocation site. Relocation to places far away from the cities is
unacceptable to the beneficiaries and has to be forced on them
at high economic, social, and political cost. Moreover, it is not
sustainable as many of the affected families return to the city,
frequently to their original site.
Strategies aiming at equitable and sustainable urban development
have to be two-pronged: they have to preserve as much as possible of
the existing housing stock and facilitate its upgrading without making
it unaffordable for the original residents (or at least most of them); and
they have to provide sufficient space for new low-cost settlements,
be it through the use of public land or through expropriations. The
examples discussed demonstrate how this strategic orientation
translates into practical policies. They are certainly not without flaws,
and the scale and consistency of implementation leave much to be
desired. A comprehensive approach towards urban poverty alleviation
will require elements of several programmes, integrated with
measures of income and employment generation and human resource
development (cf. UNCHS/ILO 1995). There can be little doubt,
however, that both the CMP and KKB are (or were) steps in the right
direction. Both programmes have effectively enhanced the supply of
land and housing for low-income groups, albeit on very different scales.
Their replicability is a question of political will rather than a
technical matter. The Hyderabad case exemplifies that vested interests
in both formal and informal land markets are likely to mount stiff
resistance to serious reforms in this sector. Huge sums of money are
made in informal housing. The profiteers, if not holding public office
themselves, can be expected to be well-connected politically. Only
continuing pressure from below, as illustrated in the Philippine case
by the alliance of NGOs and local organisations, can ensure that
solutions will be sustainable.

Learning from informal markets 243

1 Harris (1998) points out that many of success was a Philippine army
Turners ideas had already been commander, himself a resident, who
formulated by Jacob Crane in the had studied law before his military
1940s and 1950s. career (Berner 1997a: 151f.).
2 These values are still rather 8 This advantage has proved to be rather
indiscriminately destroyed in theoretical. In practice, cash-strapped
demolitions. Administrators and state agencies, just like private owners,
planners do not seem to take their tend to sell public property to the
commitment to self-help housing highest bidder. The conversion of
promotion all that seriously; see next Fort Bonifacio in Makati into a high-
section. class commercial-cum-residential
3 Apart from the advanced degree of area is a case in point.
economic development combined 9 This process is merely an acceleration
with high public revenues, a number of what goes on in informal markets
of unique factors contributed to anyway. Informal brokers are quite
Singapores successful housing policy. ready to go up-market: the more
Government inherited 40 per cent attractive a settlement is in terms of
of the land area and acquired another location, security, infrastructure, and
half of the remainder through a services, the higher the prices charged
draconian expropriation. Moreover, by them, and the more families are
as a city-state Singapore is able to evicted with or without some
control migration and, thus, demand compensation (Gilbert 1990).
for housing. Much of the problem is 10 This section is based largely on Aliani
thereby exported to Johor Baru. and Sheng (1990), Siddiqui and Khan
4 These vested interests help explain the (1994), and van der Linden (1997b).
persistence of informal practices and Thanks go to Monique Peltenburg
are crucial obstacles for innovative who provided first-hand knowledge.
policies; see concluding section. 11 As it turned out, the system was prone
5 Non-commercial invasions do occur, to misuse and has not performed
but probably far less often than some very well as a sieve to select genuine
of the literature suggests. Moreover, applicants (van der Linden 1997b:
there is evidence that they require 40). Both HDA personnel and
specific conditions, e.g. the abundance middlemen collected bribes for
of low-quality public land (Baken and allowing families to leave early or
van der Linden 1992: 23) or particular altogether by-pass the procedure.
political circumstances (UNCHS
1996: 244). References
6 Parts of this section are based on
Berner (2000). Aldrich, Brian C. and Ravinder Sandhu
7 NGO involvement is not, however, a (1995) The global context of housing
necessary condition. We have docu- poverty, in Brian C. Aldrich and
mented the case of a squatter Ravinder Sandhu (eds) Housing the
association which went through the Urban Poor: Policy and Practice in
whole process without any outside Developing Countries, London: Zed
assistance. The mastermind of this Books

244 Development and Cities

Aliani, Adnan Hameed and Yap Kioe Urban and Regional Research 24(3)
Sheng (1990) The incremental Berner, Erhard and Rdiger Korff (1995)
development scheme in Hyderabad: Globalisation and local resistance:
an innovative approach to low-income the creation of localities in Manila
housing, Cities 7(2): 13348 and Bangkok, International Journal
Amis, Philip (1984) Squatters or tenants: of Urban and Regional Research 19(2):
the commercialisation of unauthor- 20822
ised housing in Nairobi, World Castells, Manuel (1983) The City and the
Development 12(4): 8796 Grassroots, London: Arnold
Baken, Robert-Jan and Jan van der Linden Chambers, Robert (1995) Poverty and
(1992) Land Delivery for Low Income livelihoods: whose reality counts?,
Groups in Third World Cities, Environment and Urbanization 7(1):
Aldershot: Avebury 173204
Baken, Robert-Jan and Jan van der Linden Durand-Lasserve, Alain (1997)
(1993) Getting the incentives right: Regularising land markets, Habitat
banking on the formal private sector, Debate 3(2): 1112
Third World Planning Review 15(1): Fekade, Wubalem (2000) Deficits of
122 formal urban land management and
Baross, Pal (1983) The articulation of informal responses under rapid urban
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in Third World cities, in Shlomo Habitat International 24(2): 12750
Angel, Raymon W. Archer, Sidhijai Gilbert, Alan (1990) The costs and
Tanphiphat, and Emiel A. Wegelin benefits of illegality and irregularity
(eds) Land for Housing the Poor, in the supply of land, in Pal Baross
Singapore: Select and Jan van der Linden (eds) (1990)
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development: the price implications Residential mobility and home-
of legal and illegal settlement growth, ownership in self-help settlements,
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Baross, Pal and Jan van der Linden (eds.) 107392
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Aldershot: Gower Urban Third World, London: Earthscan
Berner, Erhard (1997a) Defending a Place Harris, Richard (1998) A cranks fate
in the City: Localities and the Struggle and the feting of a visionary:
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Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila self-help housing, Third World
University Press Planning Review 20(3): iiiviii
Berner, Erhard (1997b) Opportunities Hasan, Arif (1992) Housing Policies
and insecurities: globalisation, and Approaches in Changing Urban
localities and the struggle for urban Context, paper prepared for UNCHS
land in Manila, European Journal of and PGCHS, Leuven: Catholic
Development Research 9(1): 16782 University
Berner, Erhard (2000) Poverty alleviation Jones, Gareth A. (1996) The difference
and the eviction of the poorest: between truth and adequacy:
towards urban land reform in the (re)joining Baken, van der Linden
Philippines, International Journal of and Malpezzi, Third World Planning

Learning from informal markets 245

Review 18(2): 24356 Lindert, Paul van and August van Westen
Kolstee, Theo, Joep Bijlmer and Fon van (1991) Household shelter strategies
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Kombe, Wilbard J. and Volker Kreibich 100728
(2000) Reconciling informal and Moser, Caroline O. N. (1998) The Asset
formal land management: an agenda Vulnerability Framework: reassessing
for improving tenure security and urban poverty reduction strategies,
urban governance in poor countries, World Development 26(1): 119
Habitat International 24(2): 23140 Murphy, Denis (1993) The Urban Poor:
Lee, Michael (1995) The Community Land and Housing, Bangkok: Asian
Mortgage Programme: an almost- Coalition for Housing Rights
successful alternative for some urban NDow, Wally (1996) Introduction, in
poor, Habitat International 19(4): UNCHS (ed.) An Urbanising World:
52946 Global Report on Human Settlements
Lee, Yok-Shiu F. (1998) Intermediary 1996, Oxford: Oxford University Press
institutions, community organi- Payne, Geoffrey (1989) Informal Housing
sations and urban environmental and Subdivisions in Third World Cities:
management: the case of three A Review of the Literature, Oxford:
Bangkok slums, World Development CENDEP
26(6): 9931011 Payne, Geoffrey (1997) Urban Land
Lefebvre, Henri (1974) Le Droit la Ville Tenure and Property Rights in
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Anthropos London: IT Publications
Linden, Jan van der (1986) The Sites and Pugh, Cedric (1995) The role of the World
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(1994) The incremental development People: Towards Autonomy in Building
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Learning from informal markets 247

Lowering the ladder: regulatory
frameworks for sustainable development

Geoffrey Payne

Why do so many people in the cities of developing countries live in

housing and urban settlements which ignore official planning regulations,
standards, and administrative procedures? Clearly, there are many
factors to consider in attempting to answer this question. However,
opportunities for access to legal shelter are significantly influenced by
the social and economic costs of conforming to official requirements.
Where these costs are greater than households can afford, they have
little alternative but to seek other options. An extreme example of this
is squatting, although there are now many other processes of varying
degrees of legality, or illegality, operating in most cities. For example,
households may construct a house on land they own, in an area officially
designated for residential development and in conformity with building
regulations, but not in conformity with administrative regulations.
Since such developments will not qualify for the essential docu-
mentation required by the authorities, they may be regarded in the
same category as other unauthorised housing.
Under such conditions, the ability of urban authorities to impose
official norms is restricted to developments under their direct control.
Elsewhere, the proportion of people unable to conform has reached a
critical mass that enables people to act with relative impunity in
undertaking further illegal actions. Such processes not only challenge
the authority of the urban agencies responsible for managing urban
development, they also threaten public respect for all other laws and
official regulations. Increasing access to legal shelter for the urban poor
and improving urban governance for all sections of the increasing
urban population therefore require that this issue be addressed by
researchers, policy makers, and administrators alike.
Although unauthorised housing and urban development has
become so widespread in many places as to represent the norm,
households may still be exposed to insecurity and limited access to

248 Development and Cities

credit, services, and public facilities. They may also suffer from social
and environmental costs, isolating them from civil society.
Many of the planning regulations, standards, and administrative
procedures operating in developing countries have been inherited or
imported from countries where the economic, social, institutional, and
climatic conditions are significantly different from those in the South.
For example, building regulations in the southern African kingdom of
Lesotho are based on those of Sweden, and those of the highlands of
Papua New Guinea on Australian category A regulations derived from
coastal conditions.
Initial intervention by many international agencies to improve
urban housing conditions in the South focused on designing and
implementing pilot projects. Sites and services projects were under-
taken in the hope that the experience gained would filter through to
the mainstream activities of urban development agencies and gain
acceptance for the principle of incremental development. In some
cases, as in the Nairobi Dandora projects funded by the World Bank in
the early 1970s, reviews were commissioned of existing planning and
building regulations, standards, and administrative procedures with a
view to making them more appropriate to local conditions. Perhaps
inevitably, these indicated that existing standards were too high for
many people to be able to conform with them and it was recommended
that some be reduced. However, the subject was particularly sensitive
and it was more than 20 years before any of the recommendations were
accepted, and even then only in a partial form.
It is understandable that central or local governments are reluctant
to adopt planning and building standards that were once imposed on
them by colonial powers, or which are routinely applied in countries
reflecting standards to which they aspire. However, inappropriate regulatory
frameworks raise the cost of getting onto the legal housing ladder to
such a level that the urban poor cannot do so, inhibiting the rate at which
long-term improvements can be made in housing and environmental
living conditions. In particular, they inhibit social cohesion and economic
activity, waste land, discourage private sector participation in housing
markets, encourage corruption, and even accelerate the growth of the
unauthorised settlements they were intended to prevent. For all these
reasons, it is important to assess the social and economic costs of each
component in order to identify options for reform. Once this is done, it
will then be possible to identify the institutional, technical, and other
constraints to more appropriate frameworks.

Regulatory frameworks for sustainable development 249

Among early studies of regulatory frameworks, attention focused on
the administrative procedures by which urban development proposals
are processed. Kitay (1985: 20) claims that in many developing countries
it can take many years to record a land transaction on official title
registers, and delays are a major impediment to the involvement of
private sector developers in low-income housing. In a similar vein,
Struyk et al. (1990) record that in West Java, land transfers take an
average of 32.5 months for a title to be issued and estimate that this adds
between 10 and 29 per cent to the cost of land acquisition. In an
influential analysis of urban administration in Peru, de Soto (1989)
calculated that administrative procedures were so cumbersome that
development could not take place unless people ignored the rules, or
secured preferential treatment through political or bureaucratic
patronage. Similarly, in Tanzania, applicants for building permits have
to go through 28 different steps, taking time off work to visit different
agencies, which may more than a year (Payne 1997).
Other studies, such as Durand-Lasserve (1987), Dowall and Clarke
(1991), and Farvacque and McAuslan (1992), have also stressed the
need to review regulatory frameworks. However, empirical evidence of
the extent to which particular planning regulations, standards, or
administrative procedures constitute the most significant barriers to
improving access by the urban poor is not easily available. In recent
research on publicprivate partnerships (Payne 1999), it was found
that planning standards impede the growth of innovative approaches
to shelter provision for the poor. This finding is consistent with other
research by ITDG (2000) on building standards, which has demonstrated
that they are invariably inappropriate to the needs of the urban poor and
that their impact has been to marginalise people, rather than uplift them.

Planning regulations
Planning regulations are generally intended to prevent incompatible
land uses or development considered to be against the public interest.
Few would object to regulations which separate polluting industries
from residential neighbourhoods. However, regulations which inhibit
residents from using their dwellings for income-generating activities
such as petty manufacturing, commerce, or rental subdivisions, deny
them a major opportunity to supplement low and often irregular cash
incomes and work their way out of poverty. They also reduce the
amount of housing available for the poorest households and inhibit
house and environmental improvements.

250 Development and Cities

Few planners responsible for formulating or enforcing planning
regulations would consider these outcomes desirable. However, it has
proved immensely difficult to waive or even relax them. As McAuslan
(1989: 30) states in relation to Madras:
so concerned have the authorities been to close every loophole
against illegal development, corruption, exploitation of scarce resources,
the exercise, and therefore the possible wrongful or non-exercise,
of discretion, that the principal aim of the Madras Metropolitan
Development Authority to get orderly and equitable development
underway in Madras and its environs has been lost sight of.

As a result, laws were not being observed or enforced, illegal and

unauthorised development was widespread and plans were not being
McAuslan goes on to claim that the legal regulations in Madras also
lack consistency, and the more complex they become the more likely
this is to happen. By attempting to control all aspects of land develop-
ment, particularly land use, planning regulations have therefore
restricted both access to land and the options for those who do gain
access. Such approaches are the reverse of the approaches adopted in
most unauthorised settlements, where a significant proportion of the
population may be employed locally and in ways which benefit the
wider urban economy. For example, in China and even in Japan, many
of the components required in hi-tech manufacturing are produced in
home-based units.
Such restrictive regulations also have a more pernicious aspect.
Their obtuse language, complexity, and comprehensiveness load the
dice in favour of professionals, their affluent clients, and the political
elite, and against the uninitiated majority.
Among the regulatory factors restricting investment in urban land
development, particularly for commercial and industrial uses, few have
greater impact than zoning regulations. By insisting on the complete
segregation of residential, commercial, industrial, and recreational
activities, these negate the very qualities that make cities dynamic and
attractive places in which to live and work. Most thriving cities,
including popular destinations for tourism, embody mixed land uses,
low- to medium-rise development, and medium to high densities. Yet
these qualities are often impossible to achieve within current zoning
and other planning regulations.

Regulatory frameworks for sustainable development 251

Planning standards
Concern over unplanned development of squatter settlements has
often been used as the justification for establishing what are regarded
as minimum acceptable standards of development. As with planning
methods and regulations, these are often based on inherited or
imported standards, or reflect aspirations for national development
based on some notional assessment of what is accepted in Europe or
North America.
Consideration of what constitutes acceptable standards has
invariably been examined at the individual rather than city level. Thus,
standards on road widths and standards of construction, plot size,
utilities provision, or building design are considered in terms of what
a notional household should regard as adequate and not on what this
implies at the scale of the city. If it is considered important for
households to have space to grow food on their plots, and enjoy private
open space, standards may require minimum plot sizes in excess
of 300m2. However, the low densities that result may make it
prohibitively expensive to install basic utilities or operate an efficient
public transport system, thereby isolating people from employment
centres and community facilities which may be even more important
than the option of growing crops.
The imposition of official standards on private sector projects
increases costs, which are passed on to purchasers, reducing the ability
of the private sector to serve the needs of lower-income groups. In
developments designed and implemented by public sector agencies,
the gap between the cost of meeting official standards and the ability of
residents to afford them was either not quantified or was covered by
various subsidies and has proved to be unsustainable on a large scale.
As competition for urban land increases, so does the need to put it
to more intensive and effective use. Studies of squatter and other
unauthorised settlements in which the planning standards are based
on local perceptions and not on official ordinances, all suggest that
people are willing to accept higher densities, mixed land use, and less
space for roads than are required by official standards. This is largely
because official standards do not normally take into account the capital
and recurring costs involved in their implementation or the
implications for urban development and management.
An equally important consideration is that standards rarely
distinguish between initial and consolidated standards of development.

252 Development and Cities

Yet almost all locally controlled development is incremental in nature,
with people building a modest house initially, which they expand and
improve as resources become available. In many cases, such housing
reaches official standards eventually, though attempts to impose such
standards at the outset raise the bottom rung of the housing ladder too
high and exclude people from participating in the legal housing
market. Ironically, therefore, standards designed to ensure good-
quality urban development are partly responsible for the growth of
unauthorised and substandard development.
A major consideration in this respect is the cost of roads. In any large
urban development project, the area occupied by roads will be
considerable. This land has to be acquired, developed, and maintained
permanently, yet generates no direct return on the investment. Despite
this, it is common to find standards for road reservations higher than
those found in Europe. Clearly, such standards cannot be justified on
objective grounds.
Similar concerns can be cited in the case of utilities provision. By
insisting on individual connections to a public water supply, consumption
levels will be substantially higher than if initial provision is off-plot.
Individual connections require a higher (and more expensive) standard
of waste disposal and drainage that may be impossible to provide to all
those in need, or may prove too expensive for many households to
afford, even with subsidies.
Finally, the imposition of high standards on house design and
construction, with maximum floor area ratios, required setbacks, and
minimum gaps between buildings, also raises costs and lowers
densities, with adverse consequences for the urban poor.

Administrative procedures
In a major review of urban policy within the World Bank, Cohen (1992:
13) cited regulatory frameworks as the second major constraint to
improving urban productivity in countries receiving Bank support. He
suggested that a key question should be what the costs and benefits of
all these regulations are, and proposed that the Bank would introduce
regulatory audits, or costbenefit balance sheets of the regulatory
systems operating in specific cities, to eliminate elements which
constrain economic activity. While accepting that some regulations are
undoubtedly necessary, he suggested that others, such as the common
requirement that the distance between two buildings should be equal
to their height, did not appear to have a rational justification.

Regulatory frameworks for sustainable development 253

This concern with regulatory frameworks was reinforced in the
Banks subsequent Housing Sector Policy Paper (1993: 11) which stated
that nothing influences the efficiency and responsiveness of housing
supply more than the legal and regulatory framework within which
housing suppliers operate. The paper contrasts the simple and
efficient regulations of Thailand with the cumbersome approach
adopted in Peru, where it was estimated to take almost seven years from
project inception to occupation of units in new developments. Not only
do these delays increase costs, but regulations also eliminate cheap
housing and force the poor to spend a larger proportion of their
incomes on housing.
The extent to which administrative procedures affect the urban poor
in the case of Peru was quantified extensively by de Soto (1989). This
indicated that it took 289 days to establish a factory legally, while
procedures for legally obtaining a plot of land were estimated to take
six years and eleven months, or 56 times the official minimum wage at
the time! He concluded that this forced people out of the legal market,
even if they were otherwise willing and able to obtain legal shelter.
Consequently, the informal sector in Peru accounted for about 70 per
cent of all new construction, employed 439,000 people, and provided
90 per cent of the citys transportation. Following recommendations
resulting from this study, the situation in Peru has improved
considerably, though this is the exception rather than the rule.
In many countries, it is even difficult for people to obtain
information on administrative procedures which they are expected to
follow. In Lesotho, for example, all forms relating to registering land
titles or to developing plots are written in English, although many
people cannot even read the local language.
Procedures tend by their nature to become more, not less, complex
over time. In some cases, they may also become contradictory. In
Tanzania during the 1980s, recipients of plots in sites and services were
required to build and occupy a house within 12 months or forfeit their
plots. However, it took considerably longer than this to complete all the
steps required to obtain official permission to build a house, though
failure do so could also lead to the forfeiture of their plot!
However, the full impact of complex administrative procedures is
rarely even recognised. This consists of the financial cost imposed by
delays in the time taken to conform to, or obtain unofficial exemption
from, official permissions. This is particularly serious in countries
experiencing high rates of domestic inflation and even higher real rates

254 Development and Cities

of interest. Clearly, where interest rates are in the region of 20 per cent
a year or more, a delay of a year in obtaining permission to build on
recently acquired land dramatically adds to total costs. During many
years of organising planning simulation exercises for professionals in
urban development agencies, this writer has found that participants
rarely consider the cost of money in discussions on urban project costs.
When the cost of borrowing funds to undertake projects is included, it
becomes abundantly clear how expensive lengthy procedures can be
and how much could be saved by simplifying them.
However, the greater the number of desks which applicants have to
visit in order to obtain planning permission, the greater the opportunities
for staff to exact personal benefits. As long as public sector salaries
remain low, such tendencies become difficult to resist and vested
interests, especially bureaucrats who extract bribes from people seeking
permissions, become entrenched. While it is relatively easy to propose
that the administrative system should be reformed, ensuring that such
reforms are implemented requires that these interests be taken into

Recent trends
It is clear from the above that the underlying rationale for regulatory
frameworks has traditionally been to assert control over processes of
urban development. Methods have tended to be reactive rather than
proactive and rigid rather than flexible. The evident failure of such
approaches makes the concerns expressed by various observers and
the World Bank, to change this approach to more market-sensitive
approaches, both justified and urgent.
However, in view of the current impact of globalisation and privatisation,
it is important to consider what an appropriate basis should be for more
relevant regulatory regimes. For example, deregulation is unlikely in
itself to improve significantly the efficiency of urban management of
land and housing markets, or access to these by the poor. This has been
recognised by Cohen (1992) and the World Bank in its Housing Sector
Policy Paper, which claimed that nothing influences the efficiency and
responsiveness of housing supply more than the legal and regulatory
framework within which housing suppliers operate (World Bank 1993:
11). The Bank recommended the introduction of regulatory audits
listing the costs and benefits of selected regulations as a basis for
reform and introduced such audits in Mexico in the early 1990s, to
identify bottlenecks at the local level and design reforms to remove

Regulatory frameworks for sustainable development 255

them. Initial work identified unnecessarily high building standards,
large plot sizes, oversized roads, and complex titling procedures. It
estimated that 25 per cent of housing costs in Mexico were attributable
to clearly excessive local regulation. However, it appears that further
more detailed audits have not yet been undertaken.
The Bank links these measures to the strategic objective of
increasing urban productivity and emphasises the linkage between
sectoral policies, such as housing, and the macro-economy. Its
approach to regulatory reform has been questioned by Jones and Ward
(1994: 42) who suggest that the Bank has restricted its attention to the
formal segment of the land market. They express doubts about the
application of deregulation to the informal segment of the market,
since this is already unregulated. While they acknowledge that removing
selected planning and land-use regulations may decriminalise certain
activities, hinder corrupt officials, and allow some capital to be invested,
they claim that it will do little for the conditions under which the
occupants or providers of land or housing compete for resources, and
may also expose them to taxes and other costs from which they had
previously been exempt. They indicate that the effect of the Banks
policy would be to formalise informal processes rather than deregulate
land and housing markets, which they consider a curious form of
radicalism in societies where 80 per cent of households already fend
for themselves in an unregulated manner. However, this overlooks the
fact that existing regulatory frameworks impose costs and conditions
which discriminate against the poor and render them vulnerable to
exploitation by unscrupulous developers and other providers of
commercial shelter in the informal sector. While access to formal
shelter undoubtedly involves costs in the form of taxes, these may also
confer benefits if the costs are affordable and residents receive benefits
in the form of services and facilities in return.

Future prospects
The real questions should perhaps be: what aspects of the land and
housing development process should be regulated and how should this
be achieved? This in turn poses the question of what objectives
regulations are intended to fulfil. Two possibly conflicting elements
appear necessary in that new regulatory regimes will be required to
stimulate domestic and external investment and also provide
transparent and equitable guidelines for development led by others.
In this context, the World Bank has a strong case for proposing that it

256 Development and Cities

should concentrate on identifying those regulations which create the
most severe distortions in sector performance (World Bank 1993: 35),
though the final objective should perhaps be broader than this.
Such changes will require a fundamental change in working
practices, attitudes, and value systems and will take time to take root.
Addressing powerful vested interests will also be more challenging
than preparing objective recommendations based on costs, since they
represent the greatest constraint to change. One option in addressing
this issue will be to reduce the number of steps required to obtain
planning permission, as in Peru, and to make the processing of
applications more transparent. Another way is to require the relevant
authorities to process proposals within a specific timespan, failure to
achieve which entitles the applicant to proceed. This approach has been
adopted with great success in Mali.
Before changes can even begin, however, it will be important for
policy makers and administrators to obtain accurate assessments of
which components of the regulatory framework represent the greatest
bottlenecks to the creation of more focused and appropriate frame-
works. This, in turn, requires research into the various social and
economic costs of existing planning regulations, standards, and
administrative procedures. The regulatory audits proposed by the
World Bank in Mexico represent an important step in this process and
other recent research into building standards in Kenya and Zimbabwe
has provided valuable findings (ITDG 2000). In particular, it appears
that relatively few countries have undertaken reviews of regulatory
frameworks and, of those that have, information on their adoption and
implementation is difficult to obtain.
The ITDG research emphasised the need to obtain the views of
residents on housing standards and found that many people were not
aware of existing standards and, of those who were, many found them
socially or financially inappropriate. For research focusing on planning
standards, it is essential to include a wide range of stakeholders, since
residents may be less able to appreciate the wider urban implications
of personal preferences and it will be necessary to obtain agreement
on the options for reform. However, present arrangements have
created strong vested interests based on professional and personal
considerations. Changing practices will therefore require that these
interests be addressed and that proposals be formulated which can
generate sufficient support to be implemented.

Regulatory frameworks for sustainable development 257

These issues will be addressed in two major research projects that
are about to start with support from the UK Department for
International Development (DFID). These will examine regulatory
frameworks for upgrading of existing settlements and for affordable
new settlements in India, Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa, Tanzania, and
Turkey. Examples from other countries will be included as appropriate.
While economic factors will play a critical part in both studies,
cultural, gender, and public health aspects will also be given prominence.
In many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, plot sizes, for
example, are traditionally much larger than in Asia. Equally important
will be the need to distinguish between initial and full standards, and
attention will be given to determining the minimum level sufficient to
permit permanent occupation of a plot. This should be at standards
affordable to the majority of people using market costs as the
yardstick since standards which are significantly higher than this will
be dependent upon subsidies.
A key consideration will be that both utilities and building standards
can and should be designed to minimise initial entry costs to legal
shelter to lower the bottom rung of the housing ladder. This will need
to be designed in ways which can facilitate subsequent upgrading and
consolidation, using approaches such as that proposed in Davidson
and Payne (2000).
The research will build on recent and current practice in several
countries. India has regularly revised its planning standards in line
with changing needs and circumstances, which are based on excellent
research by the Housing and Urban Development Corporation. Peru
has incorporated many of the recommendations of de Sotos research
and introduced one-stop shops to streamline the procedures for
processing development proposals. Chile has also made considerable
changes in its regulatory framework for urban development, though
Smolka and Sabatini (2000) suggest that the way in which these
changes are assessed varies greatly according to ones ideological
position. While they have undoubtedly improved the supply of housing
and the efficiency of the housing market, many poor communities have
been evicted from well-to-do areas, a result which the authors note
would meet strong resistance in less autocratic societies where the
rights of poor occupants are recognised as legitimate. The ultimate
assessment of progress in regulatory reform will be by the poor
themselves, since they are most directly affected by the conditions
influencing access to officially sanctioned shelter.

258 Development and Cities

Care will also be taken to distinguish between those elements on
which relaxation would be desirable and those on which enforcement
should concentrate. For example, relaxed attitudes to planning regulations
and standards has enabled the urban poor in Turkey to obtain relatively
easy access to land and services for many decades, yet a similar attitude
to the enforcement of building regulations led to a heavy death toll and
massive destruction when earthquakes struck in 1999.
Finally, the research will identify the public sector agencies at
central, provincial, and municipal levels which are responsible for
formulating and implementing regulatory frameworks and any
changes necessary to meet basic needs and provide local flexibility.
It is hoped that the projects will provide a series of matrices that can
identify the specific bottlenecks which impose the highest social and
economic costs. By addressing the constraints opposed to relaxing or
replacing these, it is hoped that the costs of access to affordable and
legal shelter for the urban poor can be significantly reduced and
opportunities for them to use shelter as a vehicle for development

Preliminary recommendations
It is perhaps inadvisable to propose recommendations on the strength
of research which has not even started. However, the research team will
need to arrive at conclusions and recommendations on several key
questions. The following ideas are therefore offered in the interests of
exposing initial prejudices and encouraging feedback to help inform
the research.
The first question concerns how decisions should be made regarding
regulatory frameworks in fast-growing settlements in developing
countries. The broad answer to this is that decisions should be made at
the lowest administrative levels which have sufficient competence to
formulate and enforce the various regulations, standards, and
procedures. However, such decisions should not be the sole preserve
of public officials, most of whom have been educated to require
inappropriate standards, but should include community groups,
NGOs, and private sector developers. This will ensure that regulatory
frameworks are closely related to what can be achieved for all sections
of society on a long-term, sustainable, basis. It is also vital that regular
audits be undertaken of the impact of specific regulations, standards,
and procedures to see what changes are needed to reflect changing
needs and resources.

Regulatory frameworks for sustainable development 259

Second, how will revised regulations, standards, and procedures
lead to sustainable development? It is clear from experience that the
urban poor have not benefited equally from the development of
towns and cities in developing countries, despite their substantial
contribution to them. Relaxing or abandoning many rules and
regulations is unlikely, therefore, to cause additional suffering since
the poor do not follow existing requirements. However, developing and
enforcing regulatory frameworks which the poor themselves consider
appropriate could reduce the need for unplanned development and the
vulnerability of the poor to exploitation. This will require professionals
to listen to and learn from what the poor want and can afford, rather
than making arbitrary decisions on their behalf.
Third, what kinds of regulatory frameworks are necessary and what
kinds are not? The most relevant principle here is that regulation
should be appropriate to the scale of the activity involved and its social,
economic, and environmental impact. While a heavily polluting factory
should, therefore, be subject to intense scrutiny from municipal and
possibly even central government agencies, the opening of a micro-
enterprise in a domestic dwelling is a matter primarily for the residents
and their immediate neighbours. In the 1970s and 1980s, when the
gecekondus, or unauthorised settlements, of Ankara were developed by
the people who lived in them, it was common for a range of non-
residential activities, such as shops and workshops, to operate within
the neighbourhood, provided neighbours did not object. Municipal
inspectors would intervene only if a number of people living near a
particular activity made an official complaint, at which point the
planning regulations would then be applied. The more formal
subdivisions created by commercial developers since that period have
weakened this self-regulating system, although it would seem to
represent a reasonable approach in principle. The most important
aspects for the development of new urban areas relate to the standards,
regulations, and procedures by which the public realm is defined.
Emphasis here should be on creating developments in which the
maximum proportion of available land is allocated to private, revenue-
generating uses, and the minimum area allocated to roads. Second,
standards for the initial provision of public utilities should be based on
the minimum level essential for permanent occupation of the land or
dwelling. These should be designed with a view to the efficient and
economic upgrading of utilities as resources become available.
Standards and regulations for the development of individual plots

260 Development and Cities

should be restricted to aspects concerned with structural safety, such
as earthquake resistance; all others should be advisory rather than
mandatory, and presented in a form which is easily understood by all
social groups. Lastly, procedures should be kept to the absolute
minimum and focus on aspects of public concern.
Finally, if formal regulatory regimes are largely ineffective in informal
urban communities, what kind of regulation is needed to protect
peoples well-being? For many situations, it is likely that community
management will be the most appropriate level to resolve disputes,
assuming that the public realm has been developed in accordance with
the criteria outlined above. Recourse to outside agencies or authorities
should be regarded as the exception and not the rule.
The above suggestions are based on experience rather than evidence.
However, they seek to encourage regulatory frameworks that will
enable the urban poor to obtain access to legal shelter and participate
actively in the key decisions which affect their lives. Such an inclusive
approach will be necessary if cities are to be socially, as well as
economically and environmentally, sustainable.

Cohen, M. (1992) Urban policy and Reforming Urban Land Policies and
economic development: the agenda, Institutions in Developing Countries,
in N. Harris (ed.) Cities in the 1990s: Urban Management Programme
The Challenge for Developing Countries, Policy Paper No. 5, Washington, DC:
London: UCL Press World Bank
Davidson, F. and G. Payne (2000) Urban Intermediate Technology Development
Projects Manual (2nd edn), Liverpool: Group (ITDG) (2000) Enabling
Liverpool University Press Housing Standards and Procedures
de Soto, H. (1989) The Other Path: The Project: Final Report, London:
Invisible Revolution in the Third World, Department for International
London: I.B. Tauris Development (DFID)
Dowall, D. and G. Clarke (1991) A Kitay, M.G. (1985) Land Acquisition in
Framework for Reforming Urban Developing Countries, Cambridge, MA:
Land Policies in Developing Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
Countries, Urban Management Studies
Programme Policy Paper No. 1, Jones, G. and Ward, P.M. (eds)(1994)
Washington, DC: World Bank Methodology for Land and Housing
Durand-Lasserve, A. (1987) Articulation Market Analysis, London: UCL Press
Between Formal and Informal Land McAuslan, P. (1989) Land Law, Tenure
Markets in Cities in Developing and Registration Issues and Options,
Countries: Issues and Trends, paper presented at Urban Land
mimeo. Development Seminar, Washington,
Farvacque, C. and P. McAuslan (1992) DC: World Bank

Regulatory frameworks for sustainable development 261

Payne, G.K. (1997) Urban Land Tenure Struyk, R., M. Hoffman, and H. Katsura
and Property Rights in Developing (1990) The Market for Housing in
Countries: A Review, London: IT Indonesian Cities, Washington, DC:
Publications The Urban Institute Press
Payne, G.K. (1999) Making Common World Bank (1993) Housing: Enabling
Ground: PublicPrivate Partnerships Markets to Work, World Bank Policy
in Land for Housing, London: IT Paper, Washington, DC: World Bank
Smolka, M. and F. Sabatini (2000) The
land market deregulation debate in
Chile, Land Lines 12 (1): 13

262 Development and Cities

Cities for the urban poor in
Zimbabwe: urban space as a resource
for sustainable development

Alison Brown

This paper explores the political, economic, and social processes that
influence the development of urban form in cities of the developing
world. It argues that urban space in fast-growing cities is undervalued
by city officials and, as a result, fails to support the livelihood needs of
the urban poor. The lack of recognition of urban space as a critical
urban resource, and its potential contribution towards improving the
quality of life for the urban poor, is a major constraint on the
achievement of sustainable development. The paper draws conclusions
from a case study of Harare.
The focus of recent land development in Harare has been on
meeting the needs of low-income households for shelter and services.
This has led to a quantitative approach to housing provision that
focuses on individual housing units. It ignores broader questions of
urban environmental quality and performance (Awotona et al. 1995),
and creates sterile environments, de-emphasising the citys role as a
centre for collective life and as a source of livelihood for the urban
poor (Dewar 1993; Behrens and Watson 1997). Cities such as Harare
must therefore understand their important role in finding and
implementing appropriate measures to influence and control the use
of public space for these purposes.
The paper first explores the concept of urban space as a framework
for the analysis. Using the illustration of Harare, it then examines how
the political context has shaped the city, in the pre- and post-
independence era. The effects of economic structural change are then
considered, including the dramatic increase in urban poverty. The
social demands on urban space resulting from economic upheaval, and
peoples different perceptions of these, are then considered. The last
section argues that urban space should be treated as a critical resource,
as reflected in significant policy shifts.

Urban space in the context of sustainable development
The physical space of cities is delineated by a complex system of social
conventions. Among these are conventions that define different spaces
in urban areas as either private or public. Private space is marked by a
system of barriers or signs to deter strangers from entering. Public
space is the area outside individual or small group control and is usually
multi-purpose in function, although the division is not always clear
(Madanipour 1999). In this paper, the term urban space is used to
encompass all those areas of the urban environment that are not
exclusively private, but are in some way shared with others in the
community. This may include areas of land in government ownership,
such as roads or stream reserves, but may also include other
undeveloped or ill-defined spaces.
In densely populated urban areas, many poor households have very
restricted access to private space, as a result of small plot sizes, multiple
households on plots, and high room occupancy; urban space is an
important resource for these households. The space immediately
outside the house or shelter forms an extension of living space and a
centre for social interaction. More critically, low-income households
frequently gain part or all of their income from informal sector
activities such as petty trading, manufacture, or urban agriculture,
which rely on access to urban space.
In low-density areas, often on the peri-urban fringe, the problems of
poor households result not from lack of space in the home, but from
the relative isolation of households from urban centres which provide
a choice of employment opportunities and a range of facilities for
healthcare or education. In this context, urban space becomes a barrier
that has to be traversed at considerable cost to the households whose
income is insufficient to provide for the cost of public transport.
Two factors are central to understanding the operation of urban
space. First, an analysis of the political and economic forces which
influence its production and regulation, and, second, an awareness of
the social functions of space and peoples perceptions of it within the
urban environment (Madanipour 1996). The production of urban
space is largely influenced by the land and property development
process and the financing mechanisms, regulations, and land tenure
arrangements of the citys major institutions and groups (central and
municipal government, landowners, development agencies, the
construction industry, etc.).

264 Development and Cities

The perception of urban space has been explored by designers such
as Lynch (1979) and Bentley et al. (1985), and others have looked at the
cultural forces which shape city form (Dandekar 1998). However, there
has been relatively little consideration of the social dimensions which
influence how space is perceived and used, or the different meanings
attributed to space by different groups in society. Madanipour (1996)
argues that environmental awareness depends on social and economic
hierarchies, and that our interaction with urban space cannot be fully
understood without understanding the social context of urban life.
He argues for a socio-spatial approach to urban analysis which
identifies the role of space in social interaction.
The adoption of goals for sustainable urban development requires
an assessment of the effect of development on both the natural and
human environment. This suggests integrated approaches to urban
development, which combine social, economic, and environmental
considerations, to give equitable access to resources both within
and between generations (Haughton and Hunter 1994). In low- and
middle-income countries, an important component of sustainable
development strategies has been to find ways of increasing the access
of low-income groups to land for shelter, by seeking more efficient use
of land, or forms of tenure which improve the security of households
(UNCHS 1996). It is argued here, however, that land for shelter is only
one facet of the land resource so crucial to low-income households, and
that land for livelihoods or social interaction is equally necessary in
contributing to quality of life.

Political influences on urban space in Harare

The political context in Harare has profoundly influenced the citys
physical form and urban space, and the policies of segregation pursued
by the settler community are imprinted on the urban fabric. Modern
planning has reinforced this historic polarisation, and the former
racial divide has become an income divide in the post-independence
city. Government housing policies have concentrated on the provision
of single-use, low-income housing projects, and have reinforced
segregation and created new low-income communities which are
isolated on the outskirts of the city.
Harare was established as a settler colony in 1890. The colonial
government was concerned to establish a pleasant environment for the
settler population, to support the manufacturing base of the new city,

Cities for the urban poor in Zimbabwe 265

and to control the African labour force (Rakodi 1995). The new
settlement was built around a small fort and administrative offices for
the British South Africa Company, and a cadastral plan was prepared
with generous streets laid out on two intersecting grids. The first
settlement for African workers was established in 1892, and legislation
in 1906 allowed the designation of separate black residential areas, and
made it compulsory for all African workers not living at their place of
work to live in these locations. In 1907, some 20 ha was allocated for
the first African township at Harari (now Mbare), 3 km south of the
city centre (Zinyama et al. 1993).
From this time, the city developed along strictly segregated lines.
The municipality area, or townlands, was gradually developed for the
settler community, and outlying private farms were subdivided into
large residential properties, which were attractive because of cheap
land, a rural environment, and freedom from municipality rates and
controls (Zinyama et al. 1993). The first major subdivision outside the
municipal area was at Avondale, 6 km north of the city centre, which
was incorporated into the municipality in 1934. Meanwhile the
shortage of African housing was becoming acute and, by 1935, an
increase in squatters living just outside the city led the government to
identify a second township for 2500 people on the state-owned
Highfield Farm, about 8 km south-west of the city centre.
The pace of development increased after the Second World War with
an influx of new settlers from Europe. Each new suburb was designed
according to imported planning fashions of the time, illustrating the
garden city, neighbourhood, and Radburn design concepts (Davison
2000). During the 1950s and 1960s, eight Town Management Boards
(later Town Councils), and one Rural Council were set up to administer
the outlying areas. During the post-war years, expansion of the urban
economy resulted in critical housing shortages for the African
population, and employers were required to provide accommodation
for workers, while the local authorities built hostels and small family
houses for rent in Mbare and Highfield. Where possible, African
housing was exported beyond the city limits, and new areas were
developed to the south and west of the city including Dzivarasekwa
and Kambudzuma in the 1960s, and Glen Norah and Glen View in
the 1970s.

266 Development and Cities

Low-income housing
As a result of the struggle for independence in the 1970s, an influx of
refugees led to further pressure for housing and the growth of squatter
areas to the south of Harare. In 1974 a decision was taken to establish
a new town at Chitungwiza some 25 km south of the city beside two
established settlements for airport workers. By 1982 the new town had
grown to a population of 170,000 (Zinyama 1993), and is now the third
largest urban complex in the country.
In Zimbabwe, the supply of land for low-income housing has
always been considered as a public sector responsibility and, since
independence in 1980, housing policy has aimed to redress the
shortage of such through state initiatives, mainly through the provision
of serviced plots for home ownership. In the early 1980s work started
on several sites and services schemes in Harare, for example Warren
Park, Kuwadzana, Hatcliffe, and Budiriro. A decision taken in the late
1970s to sell off the municipal rental stock to sitting tenants was
implemented during the first half of the 1980s, when nearly two-thirds
was sold (Rakodi 1995).
Unusually for a fast-growing city, Harares authorities have
remained intolerant of informal sector housing. The extensive squatter
areas of the late 1970s were all cleared, with little public outcry (Rakodi
1995). New informal settlements are quickly removed and their
populations exported to various holding camps, for example Porta Farm,
40 km to the west of the city centre near Lake Chivero. The exception
is Epworth, a large settlement on Mission land located 10 km south-
east of the city centre, beyond the Harare Municipality boundary, which
now accommodates about 50,000 people and is the only regularised
squatter area in Harare.
The pressures of rapid urban growth are, however, manifest in high
plot occupancy and considerable overcrowding, particularly in low-
income areas near the city centre, where the increase of backyard
shacks for rent causes considerable social pressures. The social cost
of inadequate housing is high. Average occupancy rates in the low-
income areas are estimated at about 12 people per unit (Harare City
Council Social Survey 1996), but occupancies as high as 27 people
living on one stand have been found (unpublished study). Auret (1995)
cites problems of family breakdown, increases in crime, threats of
assault to and abuse of women, an increase in the number of street
children, malnutrition, and high incidences of communicable diseases,
which she found to be associated with overcrowding and poor housing.

Cities for the urban poor in Zimbabwe 267

The population of Harare is now estimated to be about 1.2 million
with around 0.7 million in Chitungwiza and a growth rate of around
6 per cent a year. There are about 120,000 low-income households on
the City Councils waiting list, and there is a significant shortage of
middle-income housing, for which no provision has been made in
recent years. Poor households are concentrated in a relatively small
sector of the city. At the end of 1997 it was estimated that about 64
per cent of the municipalitys total housing stock was in the low-income
areas. These house about 75 per cent of the urban population but
occupy perhaps a quarter of the municipality area. Some 48 per cent
of the population in low-income areas was found to be lodgers, with
just over 1000 squatters, although some 12,000 squatters have been
relocated to Hatcliffe and others to Porta Farm (Mubvami and Hall
The land development process
Planning legislation was introduced in 1933 and 1945, ostensibly modelled
on the British planning system, but essentially a zoning system operating
in the settler areas as a Town Planning Scheme. The standards adopted
reflected imported engineering standards for road and infrastructure
design, but served to reinforce the cultural divide between the settler
minority and the African majority. A regulation that any plot where
sewage disposal was by septic tank should be a minimum of 4000 m2,
reinforced the low-density pattern of settlement, and the subdivision
of plots was prohibited. A new planning act in 1976 (amended in 1996)
introduced a system of master and local plans, which were extended
after independence to cover the township areas.
Designs for African housing were intended to ensure the provision
of adequate infrastructure at minimum cost. Research initiated at the
end of the 1970s led to the publication in the early 1980s of a series of
design manuals, relating to planning standards, building regulations,
and water and sewerage designs for the Ministry of Local Government
and Housing (Musekiwa 1993; Musandu-Nyamayaro 1993). These
documents have had a profound impact on the geometric design and
appearance of low-income housing areas and, although now updated,
the least-cost philosophy still holds (Davison 2000). Ironically, these
manuals perpetuated the separation of low-income housing areas from
other sectors of the city, as there is no mixing of plot sizes within the
low-income housing schemes.

268 Development and Cities

Urban space in Harare is thus a by-product of the polarised city and
its dual planning processes. The overall density of development is
extremely low, estimated at 24.7 persons per hectare (about four
households per hectare) in the Harare Combination Master Plan in
1989, although this has undoubtedly increased. Wide drainage reserves,
or vleis, along the streambeds enhance the dislocated character of the
settlement and there is almost complete separation of high- and
middle-income areas from the low-income communities, which are
found mainly in the south-western segment of the city. A study
(Swedeplan 1989) estimated that a population of between 141,000 and
354,000 could be accommodated on infill plots in four suburbs alone.
This type of urban layout is completely contrary to the philosophy of
sustainable development, which tends to advocate compact cities,
mixed-use development and to minimise the use of non-renewable
transport resources through high-density construction. In Harare, the
segregation of low-income areas from richer suburbs and employment
areas, and extremely low densities, severely limits the choice of employ-
ment strategies for poor families. The adoption of a philosophy of sustainable
development would necessitate a complete rethink of the approach to
urban planning and the management of urban space in Harare.

Economic influences on urban space in Harare

Many post-colonial governments inherited economies that were
structurally weak, and introduced very little radical change. Trade
patterns determined in the colonial period relied on the production
and export of raw materials and agricultural produce, which
experienced a decline in world market share during the 1970s and
1980s (Rakodi 1995).
Zimbabwes economy is based on primary production of agricultural
produce, and manufacturing. At independence in 1980, the government
inherited a controlled economy that had suffered from years of
isolation and under-investment during the period of UDI (Unilateral
Declaration of Independence) and international sanctions, and a GDP
heavily dependent on agricultural production. In addition to foreign
exchange and import restrictions, new controls introduced after 1980
included protection of staple foods and wages. In subsequent years,
government expenditure rose to over 50 per cent of GDP, mainly as a
result of increased spending on health, social services, and infrastructure,
partly funded by increased taxation which further undermined the
capacity of the private sector to make new investment (Munjoma 1999).

Cities for the urban poor in Zimbabwe 269

Unusually for Southern Africa, in 1980 the majority of Zimbabwes
urban workforce was employed in the formal economy, partly because
a formal sector job had been a condition of urban residence, and partly
because planning controls restricted commercial activities on residential
plots (Rakodi 1995). By the end of 1980s, rising unemployment,
increasing inflation, and difficulties in financing the spiralling budget
deficit, led to the recognition of the need for major structural change.
By 1989, the workforce was increasing by about 200,000 school-
leavers a year, but the economy was capable of creating only 2030,000
new jobs annually, mostly in health or education. Unemployment had
increased from about 8 per cent at independence to around 26 per cent
by the end of the decade. Inflation was running at 11 per cent during
most of the 1980s and later increased to 17 per cent, meaning that, with
nominal interest rates at about 12 per cent, the real interest rate was
negative. Central government debt had reached 71 per cent of GDP in
1989, of which 36 per cent was external. The situation was exacerbated
by successive devaluations of the Zimbabwe dollar, and a failure to
attract significant foreign investment during the 1980s (Munjoma
From 1991 to the end of 1995 the government introduced an
Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) which signalled
an end to its 12-year socialist economic policies. The move was broadly
supported by the World Bank and the IMF, and the first step in October
1990 was a partial relaxation of import licences, with the full
programme introduced in January 1991. The governments objectives
were to reduce the budget deficit through: the removal of subsidies;
the adoption of appropriate fiscal and monetary policies; the
liberalisation of trade to increase exports and imports of manufacturing
components; and the removal of controls on prices, labour, and wages.
The Zimbabwean approach to structural adjustment also included a
focus on employment creation and social welfare, with a programme
of cost recovery for social services (Robinson 1991; Nyangulu 1991).
Despite a promising start during 1991, severe drought in 1992 led
to an 8 per cent drop in GDP that year, and triggered the countrys worst
recession since independence. The private sector was unprepared for
foreign competition and manufacturing output declined by 20 per cent
between 1991 and 1996. Per capita GDP dropped sharply in 1991 to
below the 1980 level, and inflation escalated to a staggering 42 per cent
in 1992, fuelled by a shortage of agricultural commodities and the
phasing out of consumer subsidies. Foreign exchange rates were

270 Development and Cities

controlled until 1993, and were regularly adjusted downward to
compensate for the gap between Zimbabwes inflation rate and those
of its major trading partners. Exports increased but the cost of imports
also rose, further stoking inflation. By 199596 the debt burden had
risen to 80 per cent of GDP, and debt repayment constituted over 30
per cent of government expenditure.
By the end of ESAP in 1995, per capita GDP and consumption and
expenditure on health and education were lower than in 1990. Formal
sector employment had grown by only 12,000 new jobs per annum,
and virtually none of the ESAP macro-economic targets had been met
(Munjoma 1999). In 1996, the government introduced a second round
of economic reform, the Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and
Social Transformation (ZIMPREST). By 1997, agriculture and forestry
still accounted for 19 per cent of GDP and mining and quarrying
2 per cent, while manufacturing had fallen to 18 per cent. Distribution,
hotels, and restaurants accounted for 20 per cent. The largest
manufacturing sectors are food and drink, metals and metal products,
and chemicals and plastics (CSO 1998).
The economy of Harare is very similar to that of the country as a
whole. There are two main employment centres in the city, the central
area and the large industrial area of Wokington/Southerton in the
south-west. Efforts to decentralise industrial production in the 1970s
and 1980s to the outlying settlements of Chitungwiza and Norton were
not successful.
One of the more surprising results of the ESAP era was a property
boom in the city centre between 1991 and 1997, with the development
of more than 30 high-quality new office blocks, and an increase of
60 per cent in the amount of office floor space for rent, totalling about
275,000 m2. Several factors contributed to this growth. First, there was
a belief in the long-term improvements in the economy as a result of
ESAP, and soaring inflation and negative real interest rates made the
money markets unattractive for investment. There were still
restrictions on international investment, and tight controls on the
remittance of dividends by foreign companies, with the result that cash-
rich companies were looking to protect their portfolios through safe
investments in the local economy.
Pension and insurance funds were leaders in the investment boom,
as a result of progressive relaxation in the amount of discretionary
funds they could invest, and about two thirds of the new floor space was
built by these institutional investors. By 1996, investment in the

Cities for the urban poor in Zimbabwe 271

commercial office sector had slowed, partly because high interest rates
had meant investment returns on the money market reached up to 25
per cent, and were more attractive than the 10 per cent yield from
property investment, and partly because of high building costs resulting
from high inflation (Munjoma 1999; Matisma 1996; Mugiyo 1996).
The property boom transformed Harare city centre into a modern
high-rise city with a dramatic skyline. It also created a powerful lobby
among vested interests in promoting continuing control of the urban
space of the city centre, retention of high levels of parking, and
restriction of informal activities. In 1998, commuter bus services the
minibuses providing low-cost transport were restricted from stopping
on the roadside in the city centre and were relegated to outlying
termini, and a one-way system of traffic management was introduced
to ease traffic congestion, but did nothing to make it easier for
pedestrians to get around.

Social influences on urban space in Harare

ESAP also led to a dramatic and sudden increase in poverty in Harare,
and throughout the country. Structural adjustment policies have severe
consequences for the urban poor, as removal of consumer subsidies,
cuts in government expenditure, and opening the private sector to
competition result in a decline in real wages and an increase in
unemployment which disproportionately affect poor households.
The Zimbabwean experience was no exception.
Faced by the growing poverty crisis, in 1993, the government set up
a Poverty Alleviation Action Plan (PAAP). A poverty assessment study
carried out in 1996 as part of the programme found that 41 per cent
of Harares population could be classified as poor, with incomes below
the consumption poverty line (Z$2500 a month, equivalent to
US$250),1 and of these over half were very poor with incomes below
the food poverty line (Z$1500 a month, US$150) (Mubvami and Hall
1998). Although urban poverty in Harare is slightly below the national
level of 44 per cent, this represents a very significant proportion of the
urban population.
A Poverty Action Plan, launched in 1995, led to the Harare City
Consultation, a joint initiative between the City Council and the
Municipal Development Programme, with technical assistance from
the Urban Management Programme of UNCHS (Habitat) in Nairobi.
This included community development and social safety nets

272 Development and Cities

providing free education and healthcare for the poorest households.
The City Council is providing new sites for the informal sector, and the
Department of Housing continues to provide serviced plots for
allocation to individuals and housing cooperatives.
However, political and economic factors make implementation of
any coordinated poverty reduction programme extremely difficult.
Harare City Council has operated at a deficit budget for some years
it was Z$732.6 million (US$30.7 million) in 1998 and has now
adopted a financial recovery programme (Mubvami and Hall 1998).
In 1999 the council was suspended for corruption, and the city is being
run directly by a government minister. The national economy is being
crippled by war and disputes over land reform, and political unrest
prior to and in the aftermath of the June 2000 election has caused a
drastic loss of confidence in the national economy, and led to further
devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar.
Increased poverty creates new and competing pressures on urban
space, largely because of the increase in informal sector business and
trading, much of which takes place in the street or on undeveloped
land. It is difficult to estimate the level of informal sector activity
in Harare, as the available figures are conflicting, but there has
undoubtedly been a significant increase since 1991. Census figures in
1992 indicated that only 8 per cent of the 500,000 economically active
people in Harare Urban Area were working in the informal sector,
with 70 per cent formally employed and 20 per cent unemployed, but
this is likely to be an underestimate (GoZ 1992). By the mid-1990s, the
City Councils research section estimated that the proportion of people
in formal sector employment in the city had dropped to 35 per cent,
largely as a result of ESAP (Mubvami and Hall 1998). A study in the
low-income areas of Dzivarasekwa and Tafara found that the majority
of residents employed in the formal sector earned wages below the food
poverty line, that unemployment, redundancies, and low pay were seen
as the main causes of poverty, and that some 94 per cent of households
in the study were engaged in vending, and 50 per cent in urban
agriculture (Matshalaga 1997).
Various recent studies highlight the characteristics of the informal
sector in Harare. There is a sharp gender division of labour with
women predominating in the petty retail trade, particularly in the least
profitable sector of fruit and vegetables (Nachudwa 1995; Matemba
1996). There are various specialist retail sectors such as the sale of
building materials (Brown 2000) or metal construction materials

Cities for the urban poor in Zimbabwe 273

(Nangati 1995). Within the production sector there is a preponderance
of operators in activities such as carpentry and basketwork, but
products also include clothing, shoes, tinsmithing, and mattress-
making (Mupedziswa 1994). Services include activities such as hair-
cutting, mending watches, electrical repairs, welding, and auto repairs.
City centre operators tend to focus on consumer goods and earn
rather higher incomes than elsewhere in the city. In 1998, the City
Council estimated that about 1000 informal traders operated in the city
centre (Mubvami and Hall 1998), most in designated flea market
locations. A survey in 1997 of 40 traders in six flea markets in the city
centre found that 70 per cent had joined this business between 1995
and 1997 (Chikaya 1997). These regulated city centre markets are not
allowed to sell food, and concentrate on clothing, cassettes, tapes,
and kitchenware, with considerable numbers importing goods from
South Africa, Botswana, or Zambia, and second-hand clothes from
Zambia or Mozambique. Daily rents varied between Z$10 (US$0.8) in
peripheral locations to Z$150 (US$12) in prime locations, but earnings
were comparatively high, ranging from Z$500 (US$41) to Z$2000
(US$166) a week.
While the difficulty of raising capital is the single most pressing
problem facing informal sector businesses, lack of reliable and secure
premises from which to operate is also a serious constraint, particularly
for those conducting their business in the open. The problems of
trading in the sun or rain, with consequent damage to goods, are
compounded by lack of security for capital equipment (such as
welding machines), goods or takings, and harassment by the police and
municipal authorities. Even in the city centre, markets are
overcrowded, with a lack of toilets, water taps, and lock-up facilities
(Mupedziswa 1994; Chikaya 1997). Most traders have to pack up their
goods at the end of the day, but the small minibuses the cheapest form
of urban transport will not transport them and their goods, thus
forcing them to hire expensive taxis (Auret 1995).

Perceptions of urban space in Zimbabwe

Preliminary views on peoples perceptions of the urban environment
were obtained from two pilot studies using street interviews carried out
in the late 1990s in the city centre, and in Machipisa, the main
shopping centre at Highfield, a low-income housing area about 8 km
south-west of the centre (Brown 2000). The studies found considerable

274 Development and Cities

concern about the deteriorating street environment and increasing
pressures on urban space, particularly the increase in informal trading,
poor street environment for pedestrians, and escalating street crime.
In the centre, attitudes are polarised between those who want to see
an orderly, managed environment symbolic of a city centre, and those
trying to make a livelihood. Peoples perceptions of urban space differed
significantly depending on their employment status, reasons for being
in the city centre, and where the interview took place. Some valued the
smart, more upmarket character of the eastern part of the city centre,
while others were concerned about the difficulty of negotiating the
western area as a pedestrian, and environmental factors such as traffic,
noise, dirt, and the problems of pickpockets and street kids.
Attitudes surrounding the informal sector were conflicting. Hawkers
themselves resented police harassment, and petty pilfering of goods.
They would prefer locations near the main tide of pedestrian flow, and
shelter for the rainy season. Some people saw hawkers as part of the
wider problem of poverty, and considered that the locations of stalls
should continue to be strictly controlled. In the city centre, an interesting
example of informal management of urban space can be seen in
the management of parking meters by street children. This occurs in
several locations and improved management of this system has been
proposed as a way of both improving the income of the street children
and improving the management of parking facilities (Nyamvura 2000).
The suburban shopping area of Machipisa has a very different
function from the city centre and perceptions differed significantly. The
area was laid out, probably in the 1970s, according to planning
principles of the time. It covers approximately 15 ha and includes 96
designated commercial plots, many of which are subdivided, selling a
mixture of food, clothing, electrical and other goods (Ndhlovu 1999).
The local plan (City of Harare 1990) allows for expansion of the
shopping centre by relocating the bus terminus to the other side of the
road, a policy implemented in 1999. The plan also estimates that the
surrounding area of Highfield had a population of 98,500, living in
15,200 residential units, half of which had been constructed without
planning permission. Of the total population, 38,500 people (39
per cent) were found to be renting, many of those (26,200 people)
living in illegal outbuildings.
Preliminary conclusions from the Machipisa study indicate that it
caters for a local catchment, with 39 per cent of those interviewed
walking to the centre and 42 per cent travelling by commuter bus.

Cities for the urban poor in Zimbabwe 275

The proportion of people walking to the centre is extremely high,
probably because lower-income groups cannot afford public transport
fares. It is perceived as a modern employment, leisure, and service
centre, with a good range of shops. Several people described its character